Caroga campground revenue up even as use falls

The Caroga Lake Campground had more paying customers and fewer “no fee” Access Pass users in 2010, l

The Caroga Lake Campground had more paying customers and fewer “no fee” Access Pass users in 2010, leading to an increase in revenues for the facility even though fewer people used it, according to the state.

Caroga Supervisor James Selmser provided The Daily Gazette Tuesday with statistics he’d obtained from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The state figures indicated that the camp took in $119,752 in revenue in 2010, up from $80,409 in 2009, when it lost more money than any other state campground.

The key difference appears to be a reform to the state’s Access Pass system, implemented before the start of the 2010 camping system. Before the reform, eight categories of individuals, including the blind, deaf and veterans, were eligible for Access Passes, which provided virtually free use of state parks and campgrounds. The reform eliminated two categories, the semi-ambulatory and individuals receiving federal Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or Railroad Retirement Board Disability. Those two categories, which had not been a part of the original 1977 law authorizing the Access Pass system, had grown to account for 65 percent of the 34,000 Access Pass holders in the state in 2009.

Selmser said he believes the Access Pass users were a major reason the Caroga campground was losing money. An e-mail from DEC Director of Legislative Affairs Christian Ballantyne, provided by Selmser, indicated that state officials agreed that the reform of the Access Pass system has helped the Caroga Lake Campground.

“More so than any other facility, the changes made to the Access Pass program really impacted revenue and attendance at Caroga Lake. While the attendance decreased overall, the decrease was in free use. With more folks paying to get in, the revenues increased,” Ballantyne wrote.

According to state estimates, Access Pass users used $37,848 worth of campground services at Caroga Lake in 2009 without having to pay for them. In 2010, that number had shrunk to $10,790 while total attendence dropped from 25,062 to 20,420.

“I didn’t know what the impact of this would be, but I think the state did what they said they were going to do and it helped,” Selmser said.

The Caroga Lake Campground was not among the facilities targeted for closure in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

DEC officials could not be reached for comment.

The Caroga Lake Campground was one of seven campgrounds and two day use areas that were originally targeted for closure in Gov. David Paterson’s 2010-11 proposed budget. The sites were chosen by occupancy rates, operating losses and the availability of other nearby facilities. Caroga Lake lost more money than any other DEC campground during the 2009 season. After lobbying from supporters, the Legislature decided to open the campground.

Categories: Schenectady County

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