2011-06-23 / Editorial

Getting rid of seasonal campers a silly idea

VIEWPOINT
By Valerie Malloy

Some people come to Jamestown, fall in love with the unique, quaint and uncomplicated flavor of the island, move here, and then want to change things so it’ll be more like where they came from.

Nonetheless, the future of Fort Getty must ultimately be decided by referendum. If we’re in a financial crunch and calling for controlled spending, how come we’re even considering getting rid of the seasonal campers? They’re our golden goose, money tree or cash cow – whatever you choose to call it.

Not only do they fund their own maintenance and staff, but also the rest of our town’s Parks and Recreation Department’s needs. There’s even money left over to squander on overpriced and biased $10,000 studies. A charrette? Please. Mary Meagher’s committee already covered that ground. Free, too. If the special-interest people want studies, they should fund them, not the taxpayers.

The facilitated workshop said it would only cost the average household about $50 per year more in taxes to make up the shortfall created by a seasonal camper vacuum. Really? If that’s even correct, it’s more than a lot of us can afford or care to forfeit. And grandiose developments will cost us even more to build, maintain and staff. Nowhere in the presentation were there cost figures of how much these things would cost, or how much revenue they would generate, if any.

I foresee open-ended tax hikes. And $1 million for campground upgrades? No way. A former RV park owner says half that much would easily do it. The workshop quoted $300,000 yearly income from the campground but we get $388,000 from the seasonals alone. Add in day use, pavilion rental, transients, and it’s well over $400,000. Like they say: Do the math.

At the workshop, not one feature about our current campground was commended or even talked about. No PowerPointing extolled the virtues of the easy-to-access open space on the entire perimeter of the RVs, available for hiking, jogging, riding bikes, picnicking and walking dogs. No mention was made of our available boat ramp, dock, volleyball court, pavilion or seasonal boat parking.

And how about the huge grassy knoll with spectacular views of the West Passage where events such as Ali’s Run, Boy Scout campouts, weddings, kite-flying, sailing and kayak regattas, and the nostalgic annual car show take place? Not a word.

What about those small beaches which some residents love to frequent, just for the solitude provided? Pristine and undeveloped. Solitude and nature are free – no changes needed.

We really need to hear from the local majority: fishermen, boaters, merchants and others who feel solitude and natural environs trump special interest developments and don’t wish to have our taxes raised for such. Those who prefer to leave Fort Getty as is.

Some say RV people are hostile toward townsfolk. Pure propaganda. Most of us find the seasonal campers friendly, courteous and helpful. In fact, they often help residents with broken down vehicles, boat and boat ramp problems, and they also watch over the boats stored at Fort Getty (many belonging to town residents). The seasonals also pick up a lot of the trash left behind by transient visitors.

For over half a century the Fort Getty campground has been way ahead of the family values game with multiple generations of togetherness. Fort Getty also provides a summer rest for a lot of retired veterans, to whom we owe so much. And when the seasonals pull out of Fort Getty for more than seven months of the year, they take virtually everything with them – leaving no unsightly developments or permanent structures. Back to nature.

The anti-camper group seeks many changes, though. Art venue? We already have a new art center in town. Dog park? Dogs rule Fort Getty for almost eight months a year, off the leash. Amphitheater? There’s a terrific music venue at the town square by the marina, where adjacent merchants benefit hugely. Marine education center? We already have one at Beavertail, which could easily be expanded. Sailing school? Reliable sources say the much-promoted “sailing center” would be more like a big bucks quazi-yacht club with a permanent two-story boathouse and boat storage – all under the guise of “not-for–profit”.

And get this: Proponents would have us maintain it and provide utilities, year-round. One of their advocates actually said he was suffering from a case of “Fort Adams Envy”.

It seems there’s an elitist few who simply find the specter of recreational vehicles to be offensive and unsightly and just don’t want to have to look at them. They come to Jamestown, fall in love with the unique, nostalgic and uncomplicated flavor of the island, move here, and then want to change things so it’ll be more like where they came from.

It’s sad.

The author is a member of Friends of Fort Getty.

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