The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses across the state, but several Loudon County campground owners have touted “business as usual” the last two months.
Vina Carol George, Lazy Acres RV Resort manager, has been pleasantly surprised by the overall response from campers.
Many have come from out of state as spots have opened up.
“It has never slowed down, not a drop,” George said. “I think that a lot of people were calling that were going to come in for like Gatlinburg and different places and they were canceling. Then we had an influx of people that started calling from like Florida and different places, so that was a lot of people that canceled because the mountains weren’t open and we had the other ones come like, ‘OK, we can’t stay here, we need to come somewhere else.’ Basically, we’ve stayed full to the brim.”
Yarberry Campground has remained open and is having a successful spring quarter.
“Yarberry Campground is a (Tennessee Valley Authority) campground and we have a 30-year easement on the property, so we really never close down totally,” Gail Edwards, Yarberry manager, said. “We did do social distancing and all that, and we’ve just had tremendous success. I mean, the campground’s full and it has been full. We’ve just had really, really good business. Mostly, it’s the local folks so I don’t see a lot of travelers yet.”
The Crosseyed Cricket mainly houses long-term campers and has been at full capacity the last two months.
“We don’t rent by the year but we do campsites by the month, and we’ve got a few campsites overnight,” Jim Lockwood, owner, said. “Frankly, we’ve probably averaged five people a day calling and looking for a long-term campsite, and we turn them away because we’re full.”
All campgrounds in the county have taken preventative measures to protect campers and staff.
“We are following all of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and that is with the restroom cleaning, distancing, proper PPEs and all that,” Edwards said. “Our customers are totally aware of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
“We maintain the 6 feet apart and when they come into the office, they have to stay 6 feet back and they can’t come around from the outside,” George added. “If we hand them something, we Lysol it down. If they give us something, money, we Lysol it down, bring it back in. For credit cards, they have to read it to us over the glass window instead of us taking it.”
Yarberry staff have taken extra steps to protect the campground and swimming area. The day-use swimming area remains off limits to the public until further notice.
“We do multiple shifts on the bathhouses now, and the pontoon boats, we make sure the seats have been disinfected, the life jackets and we’ve been requesting people that have been renting pontoon boats to bring their own life jackets,” Edwards said. “Right now, it’s just for registered campers. We have a security gate in place. They all receive the security code before they come to the campground.”
The summer season is projected to yield positive results as campgrounds prepare for a larger influx of business.
“We’re going to be very busy,” Edwards said. “... I believe people are just ready to get outside and be careful doing it, and that’s what we’ve seen. It’s been very positive results over this busy weekend, so we have happy campers. We are packed full.”