Some campers at Fowler Park in Vigo County voiced their opposition Monday to the county Park Board about the prospect of an increase in camping fees.

Carol Payne and husband, Rick, have camped all summer long at Fowler Park for the past seven years. Each is concerned that park officials may require campers to leave after two weeks and remain out of the park for 48 hours, a practice already required in state parks.

“We have health problems. We don’t want to uproot, we like to stay monthly. We stay all year. We are the eyes and ears of the park and if we see something wrong we contact the park workers,” said Carol Payne, one of 11 campers who attended a Park Board meeting in the Vigo County Annex.

Keith Ruble, superintendent of the county Park and Recreation Department, said no decision has been reached on camping fees or time limitations.

“We are looking at our financial situation on how much we make and how much we put out and our electrical and water costs.

“We always try to keep our rates down,” Ruble said.

Ruble said the reason the county may follow the practice of state parks is that “we don’t want to create a park like an RV park at Sullivan Park. It is not fair for you to have spots tied up all summer long,” Ruble said.

Payne quickly responded, saying, “It doesn’t matter as long as it is being paid for, what do you care who else comes in there and takes my spot? We created a revenue of at least $10,000, if not more.”

Board member Eddy Adams said the obligation of the park board “is to serve every person in Vigo County. I want to find out if we have a waiting list.”

Board President John Daniel suggested the group get with Ruble to discuss the issue, before any decision on camping fees.

Camper Barbara Lambertus wanted an exact time when the Park Department will know if it will increase rates. She said she may consider camping in Marshall, Ill., based on the cost of fees at Fowler Park.

Park officials say that gate fees charged to campers are not keeping up with the cost of seasonal help. Plus, electrical and water costs have risen since 2004, the last time park fees were increased.

It cost the park department $52,391 this year to operate Fowler Park and of that, $32,144 was for seasonal help. Fowler Park’s gate fees took in $49,623, putting that park in the red by $2,767, said Darlene Norman, assistant park superintendent.

“That is not counting electrical and water costs,” she said. “We also just put in a brand new restroom and are now looking at changing electricity because campers need more amps because of bigger RVs,” Norman said.

The Park Department plans to get quotes before the end of the year to determine if it can afford to replace electrical service in Fowler Park, Ruble said.

Nine campers spend a majority of the summer in Fowler Park, while four campers spend the entire 5½ months that Fowler Park is open to campers. “That group contributed $12,940” to the camping fees, Norman said.

“You will lose that income revenue if we are not there,” Payne responded.

Camping rates are $10 a night for primitive camping site; $15 per night for camp site with electricity or $80 for a week; and $300 per month for a camping site. Camping is closed annually on Oct. 15.

Fowler Park has 53 modern and 14 primitive camping sites. That is down from 2003, when the park had 62 modern sites and 15 primitive sites. “We had to combine some sites to accommodate the bigger RVs,” Norman said before the meeting.

Fowler Park is east of U.S. 41 on Oregon Church Road. There are 42 modern sites in Prairie Creek Park, west of U.S. 41 on West French Drive; and 72 modern and 13 primitive sites in Hawthorn Park, west of East Old Maple Avenue and North Hunt Street.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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