More people are visiting the Cumberland Lake Park campground, from both near and far.
That was one of the key messages during an annual report presentation to Village council on Dec. 9 by Genevieve Burdett, executive director of the Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society (CLWS). CLWS, which manages the site for the Village, currently has a five-year contract that expires in 2021.
Occupancy rates at the campground increased by 13 per cent in 2019 over the previous year, going from 50 per cent to 63 per cent. This figure represents the rate from May to September, though much of this takes place during the summer months, when July and August experienced about 91 per cent occupancy rates.
“The campground seems to be doing better and better every year,” Burdett said.
Part of this trend, she added, might reflect a growing interest in the activity of camping, according to annual trade report for the North American camping industry.
“We’re seeing that in the numbers,” she said.
Of these, many come from Vancouver Island, including many Comox Valley residents. However, the park still receives many visitors from afar. One of the interesting findings was that slightly more people come to the site from other countries than from the rest of Canada. In all, 81 per cent of visitors are from the Island, 10 per cent come from outside Canada and the remaining nine per cent are from the rest of Canada. Of the visitors from Vancouver Island, almost a quarter are from this region.
For the Village, the increase in visits has resulted in a dividend of almost $26,000 – up 51 per cent over 2018. As well, CLWS $10,000 is invested in the site. As Burdett’s report to council indicates, this included a washroom building, the renovation of the concession area and commercial kitchen equipment.
“If you look at those two numbers together,” she said, “CLWS gave the Village over $35,000 in cash and in-kind donations this year.”
With the upgrades, especially to the washroom, CLWS increased fees for the first time.
“The bathrooms aren’t terrifying anymore,” she added. “Our rates now are more in line with market rates.”
The investment in the campground also means investing in local businesses to supply goods and services to the site. They have a contract with a local business to run the concession, and the campground provides work for 11 seasonal staff.
Burdett touched on the growing use of the site for educational purposes.
“Outdoor education is a goal of CLWS and the master plan,” she said. “We would love to offer more outdoor education and do it year-round.”
She outlined some challenges and opportunities for the operation, which include a lack of statistics of day users, some failing infrastructure and other needs such as a paddleboard rental shed and a multi-use space that could help extend outdoor education opportunities throughout the year. Another issue is getting the Village’s bylaw department and the RCMP to visit the site more regularly to respond to any issues created by park patrons.