RV parks are 'essential' for life on the road, but don't...
RV park owners like Ron Van Fleet who operates the Alps Family Campground near Crooked Lake have long viewed themselves as resort operators. As well as providing spots for people to park their recreational vehicles or campers, Van Fleet has a swimming pool, hiking trails, and horseshoe pits among other amenities.
But he’s not talking about any of that these days.
That’s because Alps, like dozens of RV parks across upstate New York, are now viewed as little more than dwellings where people are supposed to avoid social distancing.
No campfire marshmallow parties, hay rides or horseshoe games for now. Hopefully by summer, they’ll be able to start that again.
For now, people who are at Alps are pretty much staying in their RVs.
“We’re not certain exactly what the season is going to be like," said Van Fleet.
Campers can park but they can’t use the communal restrooms, having instead to rely on their own on-board facilities. Other amenities like the gift or snack shops are closed due to social distancing rules.
Like others, Van Fleet’s full summer camping season starts in May. But he also has people at the campground who are in the area for weeks or months at a time.
In winter, Alps stays open for the tribe of those, often with specialized skills, in the utility, railroad or other industries, who follow the jobs, living in their RVs for months at a time.
He also sets aside about 50 spaces for these workers during the summer, as well as another 40 for snowbirds who travel back and forth from the southern states.
Because RV parks provide a place for people to put their mobile housing, owners successfully lobbied to be added to the list of essential businesses that can remain open during the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.
But patrons pretty much have to stay in their RVs or in the camping spots where they are parked.
“Think of yourself as more of an apartment building,” rather than an RV park is what Christine Taylor, a lawyer with the Towne, Ryan law firm in Albany, tells park owners.
Taylor, whose parents owned several upstate RV parks, is an advisor for the Campground Owners of New York and the national Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Workers like the ones at Alps really have no place else to go, she explained.
Even if they are deemed essential, there are lots of questions about what RV parks should do. That’s especially so in some rural or tourism-dependent communities that have tried to dissuade people from coming during the pandemic.
Essex County in the Adirondacks has asked for second homeowners to stay away, as has Greene County in the Catskills, and others. They’ve also asked vacation homeowners not to advertise for rentals on Airbnb or other platforms.
Even in Rensselaer County, where Alps is located, County Executive Steve McLaughlin earlier in the month said he didn’t want people coming from New York City, which has been Ground Zero for the pandemic. If they come, they should self-quarantine for 14 days, he said.
It wasn’t clear if any of the local political leaders had RV parks in mind with their “stay away” statements.
Moreover, many RV parks don’t open at all before the summer season.
State campgrounds also are currently closed to overnight visitors until at least April 30.
Some are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We’re just kind of playing it by ear,” said Taylor, who didn’t want to give her last name and who works at the Lazy River Resort in Gardiner, Ulster County.
They are closed for the winter but hoping to open April 24. Even then, however, they won’t open their playgrounds or other attractions until the pandemic passes.
Paige Derosier, a supervisor at the Swan Bay Resort in Alexandria Bay, Jefferson County, said they had calls from Canadian RV campers who were on their way back from Florida early because of coronavirus. Their campground is in the Thousand Islands region near the Canadian border. They are only open during the summer but she said she realizes the dilemma some of these travelers were encountering. “These are peoples’ homes,” she said of the RVs.