- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) - Ronica Monzo doesn’t need to travel far for a getaway.

The Kimball Township woman keeps her recreational vehicle at the Port Huron KOA during the summer and visits there at least once a week.

“Even though we live right down the road, it feels like you’re a million miles away once you’re in here,” Monzo told the Times Herald of Port Huron ( https://bwne.ws/1urTIrj ).

Campground operators throughout the area said locals such as Monzo are their biggest customers - but campgrounds also are seeing an increase in Canadian traffic, day-use traffic and new users.

“It’s close to them, they’re trying to save some gas money and they’re achieving the same thing that they would if they went north or to the west side of the state,” said Mark Sine, supervisor for Lakeport State Park.

Dennis Wilson, supervisor for Algonac State Park, said Blue Water camping is unique from the rest of Michigan because of campgrounds’ proximity to the water and metro Detroit.

“The one draw that we have that no other campground in the area has is the parade of Great Lakes freighters going past in the St. Clair River,” Wilson said.

“Both Algonac and Lakeport are popular campgrounds mainly because of our location to the metro area,” he said.

Tony Nelson, general manager for the Port Huron KOA in Kimball Township, said his campground also capitalizes on the water, letting visitors know about the blue resource a few miles east.

But Nelson said the KOA campground also has plenty to do on-site.

“We try to have enough to do here so you don’t ever have to leave if you don’t want to,” Nelson said.

Sine said his numbers have increased from about 88,118 campers in 2011 to about 116,687 campers in 2013.

He said a lot of factors can contribute to that number - marketing, the economy or weather.

“In 2011, we had an awful summer with rain,” Sine said. “We actually had to close the campground at one point because we were flooded. It deflated our numbers for about three weeks.”

Sine said from the end of June through Memorial Day, the campground is constantly busy.

Wilson said Algonac State Park has been rebuilding its numbers since traffic slowed with a dip in the economy in 2009.

“Since that time, we have not filled up during the weekends during the summertime other than the holiday weekends,” Wilson said.

But the campground’s numbers are rising, from 19,387 camp nights in 2011 to 22,121 camp nights in 2013.

The campground also has visitors during the winter, as one of the only campgrounds in the area to offer winter camping.

The campgrounds in Kimball, Algonac and Lakeport also get business from Canadians, crossing the border to find a getaway that’s not far away.

Karla and Dan Moffat, of Wyoming, Ontario, brought their family to the Port Huron KOA on a recent Sunday because it’s close to home and close to activity.

“It’s nice to get away, but it’s close to home,” Karla Moffat said.

Greg and Vickie Walters, of Chatham, Ontario, also pick the Kimball Township campground for a summer getaway.

The Walters like the full docket of activities at the campground and the Blue Water Trolley in downtown Port Huron.

“It’s family time,” Vickie Walters said.

Nelson said he’s seen a change in the type of camping people are choosing.

When the KOA campground opened in 1991, it had 116 sites and five cabins. Now, the site has about 119 cabins, 34 lodges, two cottages and 302 sites.

The campground plans to add another seven lodges and an on-site gym this summer.

“I’ve seen a shift from camping itself to the cabins and lodges,” Nelson said. “People can experience the camping atmosphere without renting or buying an RV.”

Sanilac County Lexington Park reopened its campground after a seven-year closure.

“We’ve been busy, not full yet, but the word is getting back out,” said Cheri Titus, park manager for the county park.

The campground has about 41 sites, 27 with electrical and 14 rustic options.

Titus said the campground is “small, quaint and family-oriented.”

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Information from: Times Herald, https://www.thetimesherald.com


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