Rising petrol prices are keeping people closer to home – meaning business at Flamborough campsites is booming.
At Pine Valley Campground on Valens Road, owner Susan Moelker said they – and other campsites in the Flamborough area – have been fortunate not to be hit by petrol prices and inflation, as most of their campers are from nearby towns.
“I know the campgrounds up north are feeling it,” she said. “People don’t want to travel that far.
“We’re pretty close to the city so it’s not that bad for us. Most of our seasonal campers are from the Hamilton-Cambridge area.”
Moelker said while campgrounds that need more overnight spots may feel the pinch, seasonal business is booming at the park. Pine Valley has 300 sites — mostly seasonal trailer sites, plus some sites for overnight, weekend, or week-long camping — and she gets emails daily from people interested in seasonally parking their trailer sites rather than transporting them.
To that end, Moelker said they’re full for seasonal camping, where visitors set up their trailer at one spot in the park. While the caravan can stay there all year round, the park is only open to visitors from May to October.
“This aspect of camping is in high demand,” she said. “With gas prices, people don’t want to travel – they want to find a parking space and go there every weekend.”
It’s something that’s been observed at parks across Ontario, said Alexandra Anderson, executive director of Camping Ontario, which represents nearly 400 campgrounds across the province.
“I think this year people just don’t want to drag their followers,” she said. “If you’re not towing the trailer, you can leave this ridiculously oversized pickup truck in the driveway at home.”
Although travel within Ontario hasn’t been severely impacted, travel outside of the province has declined, Anderson said — something she believes is related to increased gas prices. In fact, she said, some campgrounds are reporting cancellations and openings after two years of operation at near-constant 100 percent capacity.
Anderson said Canada’s current reputation as a traveler regarding COVID-19, as well as press about delays and flight cancellations at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, likely contributed to a drop in the number of international visitors, adding that Camping in Ontario 20 percent decrease in American visitor numbers from 2019.
Although the Valens Lake Conservation Area does not offer seasonal camping, Bruce Harschnitz, the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s manager of conservation area services, said the HCA is seeing a higher number of overnight campings than in 2021, a record year.
“They found us last year because they didn’t want to travel too far with COVID, and they were like, ‘Hey, it’s a nice place,'” he said. “Now they don’t have to spend the money on gas to go further north either.”
Valens Lake, which has 225 campsites, is one of two HCA properties that offer camping, along with the Fifty Point Conservation Area. Harschnitz said the numbers are also going strong at Fifty Point Park, a smaller campground that offers seasonal camping.
While the Valenssee campsite used to only be full on long weekends, it is now almost full on regular weekends as well.
Referring to other HCA properties in Flamborough, Harschnitz said visits to Spencer Gorge and Webster’s and Tews Falls have declined, although day use is still fairly high at Christie Lake and Valens.
The reason, said Harschnitz, is difficult to identify. But the lack of COVID-19 restrictions this year is likely a factor, he said.
In 2021, the HCA benefited from people being unable to go to the movies, attend events or play sports.
“Almost the only thing you could do was go to a park,” he said. “So they came out — they came out in droves on the weekends.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With gas prices remaining high, the Review wanted to see how local tourism was impacting Flamborough.