With gas prices rising as the spring travel season began, Tim Haney was unsure what to expect at Joe Wheeler State Park campground in northern Alabama.
Haney, park superintendent, said while $4-per-gallon fuel prices have taken a toll on the number of campers driving long distances to camp there, business remains brisk at the campground, according to the Times Daily, Florence, Ala.
“We’re already full for the Fourth of July weekend and are turning people away,” Haney said. “We’re probably going to wind up having to turn 200 to 300 people away because there’s no room for them in our campground.”
Haney said most campers with reservations for the holiday weekend live within 75 miles of the park.
“People are still going camping, they’re just not driving as far as they did before gasoline and diesel became so expensive,” he said.
Other campgrounds around the Shoals also expect a busy weekend.
Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), expects the federal utility’s campgrounds, including the Rockpile Recreation Area in Muscle Shoals, to be at or near capacity for Independence Day.
In addition to the campground at Joe Wheeler Park, Haney has noticed a change in where visitors are coming from at the park’s lodge, waterfront cottages and cabins.
“We have a lot of people coming from Huntsville and the Shoals who tell use they’ve lived here all their life but had never been to our park,” he said. “They used to go to the Smokies, Florida and other places far away for their vacations, but now that gasoline is so expensive, they are staying closer to home.
“I had one lady say they had planned to go to Florida this year, but when gas hit $4 per gallon, they decided to stay here instead. She told me her 4-year-old didn’t know the difference in our beach from a Florida beach and our park was the perfect place for their vacation.”
Haney expects the park’s lodge, cottages and cabins to all be full during the holiday weekend.
“The Fourth of July is always our busiest weekend,” he said. “The only difference this year is we’ll be seeing a lot more local residents spending their weekend with us.”
Haney also expects the park’s marina to be busy during the holiday weekend, but the boaters will be traveling less on the water.
“Instead of taking the boat out and spending the whole day running around, a lot of people take their boat out now and find a cove close by where they park and spend the day sitting still,” he said.
Some pleasure boats measure fuel mileage in gallons used per mile.
“It’s the Fourth of July. People are still going to have fun and celebrate our independence,” he said. “They are just finding new ways to do it that use less fuel.”