They didn’t ask for money, they asked for time at Committee of the Whole July 16. Smiths Falls and District Chamber of Commerce (SFDCC) members presented their “ask” Monday regarding a longer term lease for the Victoria Park Campground; the current agreement expires on December 31 this year.
The Campground has a total of 49 campsites (tent and RV); this year there are six full-season campers. Of the remaining 43 sites, an average stay is three nights with the most common reservation being two. Becky Allen, Executive Director of the SFDCC, along with Mike Fletcher, Treasurer, and Barb Black, President, came to CoW with a presentation describing the background of the campsites and a vision for the future. Fletcher noted that 87 percent of those campers are tourists “not living here permanently” and inject money into the local economy
“Over the next couple of years, downtown Smiths Falls will be dug up,” he said, with lots of traffic snarls, fewer parking spots. The campers don’t care about downtown parking, they can walk wherever they need to go from the campsite, he explains. If the Town doesn’t want to lose that money, it would do well to consider extending the lease to allow future planning and enticements to keep the campers coming back. That could include such things as investment in beautification, infrastructure improvements, website and software improvements, and alternative accommodation opportunities like oTENTik units.
Malcolm Morris, CAO, cautioned council members not to act in haste as Town staff was presenting the results of a visioning exercise to council next week. Councillor Cummings reminded council that as of July 27, the present council would be in a lame duck period until the October 22 election. Councillor Quinn said, if that was the case, that a decision should be reached “within two weeks” (before the lame duck period starts). “We should move forward,” she said. “We can’t throw away the money it generates. A one-year lease isn’t going to cut it. It should be a five-year lease and then re-negotiate.” Mayor Pankow suggested a one-year extension and a “working group” with the next council.
No decision was reached.