The campground at Canton Lake near Canton in west central Illinois have taken a financial hit since camping rates were raised. Many of those who do not live in Canton who camp there decided to camp elsewhere this year, Alderman Rick Reed said Tuesday at a meeting of the city council’s Mechanical Committees, according to the Canton Daily Ledger.
Reed, chairman of the Lake, Buildings and Grounds Committee, said since campground rates were raised last year to $20 for non-residents for sites with electricity, while Canton residents paid $10 for such sites, 70% fewer out-of-town residents are camping at the lake this year.
As a result, campground revenue is down about 44%, Reed said. He noted the community also has suffered other financial losses since non-residents who otherwise would camp at the lake are not stopping in town to make purchases. He proposed restoring the rates to what they were and saying the city had made a mistake in raising them.
Mayor Kevin Meade said he was not sure fees were the problem as much as the need to improve the campgrounds. The facilities there are likely below average and need to be upgraded. The city needs to spend money to do that, he said. The Lake Development Fund, which has around $104,000, was set up for such purposes, he noted.
Alderman Jerry Ellis said he agreed with the mayor. Get improvements started this fall and finish them next spring, he urged.
Reed said a grant will be applied for in September and a decision on it made in the winter. Such funding, if approved, would not be available until May.
Ellis maintained some work could still get started.
Reed explained some projects are designated for grant funding. He added, however, some sites could be leveled with local funds. Other improvements with local funds could be explored as well, he said.
Fire Chief Bonney Cremer said perhaps this was a less than optimal year for camping due to frequent rainfall.
Reed said he checked on that but found more people were camping this year instead of taking more expensive vacations due to the poor economy. He added he thought once campground improvements are made, the higher fees would help pay for them and be justified.
Meade said the issue should be on the agenda for next month, with priority given on how to use local funds on hand.
Alderman Larry Sarff noted options for recreational development at the lake had been offered following a study by Western Illinois University graduate student Rachel Rose of Canton. Council approved some of her long-term recommendations, which included improvements at the campgrounds as well as the old boat dock, in late April.
Alderman Eric Schenck had said then the campgrounds generated $50,000 in revenue a year.
Police Chief Dan Taylor, asked for his opinion Tuesday, said from a police perspective, the question is: “Are people living there or camping there?” If people live at the campgrounds, it tends to cause more problems, he said.