Camping rates at Kandiyohi County parks take a leap to pay for needed improvements
The Kandiyohi County Park fees for 2022 were approved by the County Board. Campers will see an increase in how much campsites will cost at the various parks. The rate increases are needed to help fund improvements at the parks.
WILLMAR — Camping has changed since the early days of the Kandiyohi County Parks . Tents and small pop-up campers have been replaced by mammoth recreational vehicles, and with them comes stress on the park's infrastructure.
"You get into the 21st century and you got mobile houses on wheels that are parking in our campsites, with multiple air conditioners, microwaves, TVs, electrical appliances," said Larry Kleindl, Kandiyohi County administrator, at the Nov. 16 meeting of the County Board. "Our sites were not designed for that. Not physically, or electrical lines, water and sewer."
Over the past decade, the county has put considerable money and effort into improving the parks with new facilities and roads, and the county is also looking into projects to upgrade the utilities to better serve the equipment campers are bringing.
Kleindl said it could cost between $160,000 to $180,000 to complete electrical upgrades at Diamond Lake park alone, which could include things such as new lines, transformers and meters. Similar improvements are also needed at Big Kandiyohi Lake West and there are concerns at Games Lake. Energy and sewer costs at the parks have also increased as service providers increase their rates.
"We have a lot of costs coming in," Kleindl said.
To help meet those costs, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved increasing the camping rates at the five parks — Big Kandiyohi Lake East and West, Diamond Lake, Green Lake and Games Lake. The increases are a considerable leap in prices. For example, seasonal camping, which is 30 days or more, at Big Kandi West will increase from $19.95 per day to $30 per day.
"It has to happen at some point," said Commissioner Rollie Nissen.
The increased revenue from the rates should eventually reduce how much the county has to subsidize the parks. Over the past 10 years, the parks have had $994,000 in expenses above the revenue earned, money the county has had to make up, using taxpayer funds. On the flip side, the commissioners don't want to make the parks so expensive that some families can't take advantage of camping.
"It is a philosophical challenge," Kleindl said. "At some point, with these costs, you have to do something because you can't get so far behind."
There is also a school of thought that perhaps raising the prices might reduce the number of people who fill up the seasonal sites for the entire summer, which reduces the number of open sites for others. When the online reservation system goes online in late January, it takes only hours for spots to fill up. Commissioner Roger Imdieke said he would like to see the cheaper seasonal rate removed, so everyone pays the same price no matter how long they are staying at the park.
Park policy updates
In addition to the increased rates, the board also approved three updates to the parks policy. The first prohibits the subleasing of campsites and campers at the county parks. Kleindl said last year there were reports of campers who reserved a seasonal site then turned around and rented out their RVs to others, charging more than the county charges for the site.
"Of course, they are making profit and taking money away from people," Kleindl said.
Only those who are registered for a specific campsite are allowed to camp there, unless management approves allowing another party to stay there. This means family members of the registered campers could still use the site, with park management approval.
"We just want to know your son, daughter are using the campsite," Kleindl said.
Language to clarify the dog fee charged at each park was also approved. Campers who wish to bring their dogs will be charged $1 per day per dog for the length of time the site is reserved.
If the site is reserved for 90 days, the registered user will pay $90, even if the dog is only there half the time.
Kleindl said the fee is needed as compensation for park staff having to deal with problems that sometimes arrive with dogs, such as messes and noise complaints.
"There are hassles with it," Kleindl said.
The final policy change was requested by Imdieke, who asked that nothing be attached to the trees, or other county property, at the parks by campers and visitors with hardware, such as nails or screws.
All three policies were approved unanimously.
Members of the board said they have heard from constituents who are both for and against the increase in camping rates. However, the entire board was in agreement that the rate increases, and policy changes, were needed to continue offering Kandiyohi County residents and visitors across the state with the best park and camping experience the county can.
"We definitely have fabulous campgrounds to offer the public," said Commissioner Corky Berg.