Campgrounds Reopen in Pennsylvania During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Mills family of Philadelphia goes for a walk through the rock field at Blue Rocks Family Campground. (L-R) Makayla, 11, Stanley, 7, dad David Mills, mom Krystle (partially hidden), Kaylee, 10, and Lucas, 2. (Photo by Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This story was written by John Stossel for The Daily Signal. 

When COVID-19 hit, I quarantined in eastern Massachusetts.

Biking around the woods, I noticed something strange.

There are two campgrounds near my house. One is full. Lots of people pitch tents or park trailers at a place called Maurice’s.

A short bike ride away is a much bigger campground that’s almost entirely empty.

Why? It’s the topic of my new video.

The empty campground is run by the state.

It has great facilities: a newly paved road, new bathrooms, etc. Signs direct people to campsites, even to group camping, but there are almost no people. Dozens of picnic tables are turned upside down.

What a shame. This would be a great place to spend time during the pandemic.

I asked one of the few people camping, “Why is this place so empty?”

“Everything is sold out,” he responded.

Indeed, signs do say, “Camp is Full.” But the camp is the opposite of full.

“I think it’s so empty because of COVID,” said another camper.

“Why would COVID-19 make it empty?” I ask. “It’s camping! You got lots of room.”

She agreed, saying she had also wondered about that.

We asked the Massachusetts Department of Parks why its camp was largely empty. It didn’t respond. We kept calling and emailing until, nine days later, someone told us that they’d “had difficulties hiring seasonal employees.”

Really? This summer, Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in America. The state offers to pay workers up to $25 an hour, including benefits. Yet, they can’t find people who’d work outdoors in a beautiful place in the summer?

Maurice’s Campground in Wellfleet, Mass., managed to hire enough staff. It has to because Maurice’s is privately owned. If it doesn’t please customers, then it can’t stay in business. “If there was no staff, we were the staff,” said owner John Gauthier.

Gauthier innovates. Sometimes, campers have helped clean the camp or staff the office. To save water, he charges customers .25 cents for six minutes in the shower. At the state camp, water is free. Campers can waste all they want.

The government bought the property in 2019 for $3.6 million. Last year, the camp’s revenue fell thousands short of its operating costs. Now, it loses even more money because it’s largely empty.

Such clear demonstrations of the difference between public and private are everywhere. But few people realize the reason why.

The owner of Maurice’s Campground tries harder, and because of that, he serves many more campers than the taxpayer-subsidized camp.

“It’s kind of unfair,” I said to Gauthier. “You have to compete against the government, which is losing all this money.”

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