Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Colorado Independent campgrounds struggling to stay afloat

Fort Collins, CO -- It's that time of year again. Whether you pitch a tent or cozy up in a creek-side cabin, campgrounds offer a refresh-ing escape from the mundane and a chance to mellow out with the environment.

But local independent campgrounds often fight to stay in business faced with plentiful and less expensive national park and national forest campgrounds.

Private campground owners rely on the natural beauty of their locations and creature-comforts to lure campers to higher-priced sites.

U.S. Forest Service camp-grounds are in the national forest boundaries, part of the public land system, and run by the Department of Agriculture. A concessionaire runs each campground, on contract with the forest service, said Mary Bollinger, visitor assistant at the Forest Service's Canyon Lakes Ranger District, part of Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests and Pawnee National Grassland.

National Park Service camp-grounds are operated by the Department of Interior, though a lot is shared between the two organizations, Bollinger said. Expenses for the camper are relatively low, with many sites available for under $20 per night. That is because the government owns the land, keeping costs down for campers.

G.W. Kippschull and his wife, Theresa, own three area KOA campgrounds, in partnership with his daughter Heidi Sisco and son-in-law, Craig, and his son Byron Kippschull. Kippschull operates the Fort Collins/Poudre Canyon KOA in LaPorte, the original KOA in the area.

“What hurts private camp-grounds the most is property taxes. The land values have gone up so much, but we can’t really charge more because of it,” Kippschull said. “Private campgrounds are known for having more rules than state forest campgrounds, since we have people staying in closer proximity. Private campgrounds need special things to offer, which make it a little more expensive than public campgrounds.
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