Campers at the conservation areas in Lambton County will have to dig a little deeper in their wallets next summer.
The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority board of directors has approved a three-year rate hike that will increase yearly fees by 27 percent bringing the cost to $3,388 or $763 more than in 2023.
In his report to the board, Greg Wilcox, the manager of the conservation areas says there are two main reasons the fee needs to go up.
“Fee increases are a result of increasing staffing costs, maintenance, park upgrades, and general cost increases,” he wrote adding “for many years SCRCA seasonal camping has operated below market rate.”
Wilcox says on average, St. Clair Region’s camping fees are about $595 lower than most conservation areas in southwestern Ontario.
There was some concern about the increase. “Will this help drive people out of the parks,” asked Don McCabe, Brooke-Alvinston’s representative on the conservation authority board.
“A 27 per cent over three years is one heck of an increase.”
Wilcox says all the conservation areas have a long list for people waiting for seasonal campsites – some with as many as 50 names on them.
Lambton Shores Councillor Lorie Scott noted costs are going up everywhere post pandemic and she didn’t think it was “unreasonable” to recoup some of the costs the conservation authority is facing.
“It’s still cheaper to go camping than it is to go on a cruise or to a resort,” she said.
Sarnia Councillor Anne Marie Gillis agreed. “It is 27 per cent increase – it works out to 100 dollars – we’re still the cheapest game in town.”
For St. Clair Township Deputy Mayor Steve Miller, it was about making sure the camping properties are sustainable.
He said SCRCA has to “bite the bullet and get caught up.”
The board agreed, passing on a seven per cent increase next year, and a 10 per cent rate increase in both 2025 and 2026.
Also included in the rate hike was an increase to the entry fee for the popular Alvinston Maple Syrup Festival. The event had been free for some time, but recently, the conservation authority started charging $10 per car for the event. It will be $10 per person in 2024.