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Opinion
Terry and Pam Hutto
Palm Coast Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015 3 years ago

Good luck filling Bull Creek after rate hike

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by: Terry and Pam Hutto

This is in response to the article in the Palm Coast Observer on March 5, regarding the Bull Creek Campground patrons.

We are a group of camping and fishing enthusiasts who have been camping and fishing at Bull Creek for over 30 years. We travel from many states, including Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Florida each year to enjoy the warm Florida sunshine and catch a few fish. But more importantly, we enjoy being able to spend time with friends that we have made over the years, both distant and local.

It is true, during the months of January to March, Bull Creek Fish Camp is a very popular place. However, the popularity is not from the amenities offered by the campground, but due to the friendships that have developed and the beautiful lake that surrounds it. Indeed Flagler County has made some much needed improvements in the campground, such as cement slabs to park our RVs and larger, although fewer, sites. However, it still does not offer the basic amenities usually found in other campgrounds, such as water that can be used for consumption, 24-hour security, and onsite management. Through the years, we have cleaned the bathhouse, picked up trash, mowed and raked the sites and provided our own security.

The camping rates increased substantially when the county purchased the camp and made the improvements. We gladly paid the increased rates in order to have the improvements. At that time, the county had daily management on site. This year, the county only provides limited grounds maintenance; we do not have anyone onsite for assistance with issues we have with the campground.

As this letter is being prepared, we have no water because the pumps are broken. It’s been seven hours so far, and we do not see anyone working on it. We experienced more theft and vandalism this year than in previous years. We were instructed to pay our rent to the county workers when they were at the campground, not knowing when they would be there. If we happened to be away from our campsites, perhaps fishing, they left notes on our doors that our rent was due and sometimes let us know when they would be back to collect. We left our checks with other campers to prevent receiving calls about past due rent.

On average, each family renting a site at the Bull Creek Campground spends approximately $1,000 to $1,200 per month in Flagler County during the three months we are in the county. We buy our groceries and gas, dine out in local restaurants, utilize the local medical facilities and pharmacies, post office, banks, laundry facilities, attend local churches, and shop in the various stores throughout the county. While this may not seem like a huge source of revenue for the county, the rent, even at the lower pre-2015 rates, provided approximately $34,000 of the reported $70,000 annual operating cost for the Bull Creek Campground. In addition to the rent money we pay to the county, we estimate we spend from $40,000 to $55,000 with local merchants during the three-month period.

County Administrator Craig Coffey was quoted in your article to state, “We have essentially four months to make the most revenue.” Since we can pretty much guarantee almost 50% of the revenue for the annual operating cost, it is evident that the reasons for the changes are not financial, but rather ill will against out-of-state tourists to Bull Creek.

It is true that in past years we stood in line on the first workday of January to make our reservations for the following year. This was due to the popularity of the 25 sites available as well as the fact that, up until the current year, the only way to ensure a reservation was to make it in person. Phone reservations were accepted, but the people standing in line were given priority. This became very hectic for the county’s reservation staff. So, in an effort to help the staff, we devised a plan to pass out numbers in advance so that the reservation process would run a little smoother. And it did. This year Flagler County Parks has implemented an online system for reservations, but if reservations are made online, full rent must be paid in advance. None of us felt we could tie up $2,000 to $3,000 a year in advance, so we went to the office in person and was allowed to make a $100 deposit for a one-month reservation, in hopes that some sort of reconciliation could be made.

Several of our camping friends visited and called surrounding campgrounds/fish camps in the area to gather information regarding their rates and amenities. We compared Riviera and Tropical Isle in DeLand, Ingram’s in Quincy, and Lake Rousseau in Crystal River. We found that, even at Bull Creek’s proposed compromised rate of $660 per month, it is still higher than all four of the other parks. Also, all four of the other parks provide onsite management, consumable water, Wi-Fi, a laundry facility, and rental cabins/rooms — which Bull Creek does not. Three of the four provide cable TV, a pool, and a recreation room for planned activities — which Bull Creek does not.

And none of the other four parks limit the length of stay on a campsite. Bull Creek allows only a 30-day stay per site, which would mean each family would have to move their rig every 30 days, if we are allowed to stay more than 30 days. Many of the family members are older, retired people who come to Florida during the winter months to escape the cold winters in their home states. This rule would make it very difficult for them, as well as create chaos with most every rig being moved at the same time each month.

When we found out about the proposed changes in rates and rules, we requested to be on the agenda at the County Commission meeting to explain our situation and humbly request they reconsider the new rates. We never received a response back from the commissioners regarding our request, only read the Palm Coast Observer article. We would have appreciated the opportunity to have a conversation with General Services Director Heidi Petito and her Advisory Board to express our concerns and clarify some of the information she provided to your news editor for your article. Presently, the rates are $220 per week, or $880 for four weeks, which is almost two times the rate of the highest campground surveyed.

While most other counties in Florida are trying everything they can to encourage tourists to vacation in their counties, Flagler County seems to be discouraging tourism in their county. The inhospitable attitude has been successful. Most of us have made alternate plans for next year. We wish Flagler County Parks and Recreation good luck in having 100% occupancy of their 25 campsites at Bull Creek Campground for January to March 2016.

Terry and Pam Hutto are residents of Eulonia, Georgia, and claim to have the support of the rest of the “out-of-state, monopolizing, fanatical fishermen and women of Bull Creek Campground.”

Comparison of campgrounds
NameIngram’s MarinaRiviera CampgroundTropical IsleLake RousseauBull Creek
LocationQuincyDeLandDeLandCrystal RiverBunnell
Rate per month$450$500$450$495$880*
Max stayNo limitNo limitNo limitNo limit30 days

 

*The rate is $220 per week, December to May. From June to November, the weekly rate is $150.

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