Salmon Point Campground fee increases eyed

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

As owner of a local campground, Jerry Doucette feels Bridgton is seriously undercharging campers at Salmon Point — and doing so at the expense of taxpayers.

Highlighting Tuesday’s board of selectmen’s meeting was discussion about the next steps to take at the Salmon Point Campground, now that voters have rejected any notion of selling the 40-acre property on Long Lake.

Doucette, owner of Lakeside Pines Campground, said the town is not charging seasonal campers nearly enough, with seasonal rates, on average, that are around 60 to 65% of what he charges at his 185-site Long Lake campground.

“I’m sorry, but that is way out of whack,” Doucette said. “And you and I, as taxpayers, are picking up the slack.”

Doucette charges $3,200 for a waterfront site, while at Salmon Point, the fee is $2,623 a season. The same pattern of significantly lower rates also holds true for campsites on the lagoon and non-waterfront sites.

“It needs to be brought up to date,” Doucette said. “It isn’t being run right.”

Doucette said he has been in the campground business for 50 years, and offered to help the town come up with a plan to manage the campground more like a business. “I’m here from May until October,” he said.

Both Selectmen and members of the Community Development Committee were eager to take Doucette up on his offer of help. Ted Sawyer, the town’s Parks and Cemeteries Director, is now serving as campground manager. In years past, however, dating back to when the town purchased the campground in 1987, the campground was essentially managed by the campers themselves, and management by the town was minimal, according to a report prepared by the CDC.

The report contains a list of specific recommendations for upgrading the campground’s operational and fee structure. When Selectmen told the CDC on Tuesday to work with Doucette and prepare an update of those recommendations for the board, several CDC members took exception to the request.

Chuck Renneker said Selectmen have had the report since last August. “This board almost literally ignored the fee recommendations in the report,” he said.

And CDC Chairman Mike Tarantino said his committee has done the work it was asked to do. “If you want us to do anything else, you’re going to have to tell us to do it.”

The report proposed raising seasonal fees for off-water sites over a three-year-period, to levels comparable with average fees charged by the nine privately-run campgrounds in the region. The report also proposed raising waterfront site fees over three years to 143% of the off-water sites, and raising the lagoon sites to 90% of the waterfront sites.

The report also recommended adding nine new off-water sites (selectmen did agree to add 2–4 new sites), and to meter the sites for electricity. The current fee structure should be further streamlined, the report said, by eliminating all of the current incidental fees except that of boat trailer storage and winter storage, and institute a one-time $25 guest fee and a $500 electrical hookup fee.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said in his manager’s report that Public Works employees recently removed the growing sandbar at the mouth of the lagoon after receiving a permit by rule from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Dredging of the lagoon was another of the recommendations in the CDC’s report. The DEP is also looking into whether the campground is in violation of state Shoreland Zoning rules by virtue of the large number of accessory structures (such as sheds or decks) that have been placed at many of the sites.

Selectman Bernie King said he obtained a copy of the rules and budget for Freeport’s Winslow Park Campground, and suggested that Bridgton might want to borrow from those documents, since Winslow Park Campground appears to be “run more like a business,” he said.

Selectmen agreed to put the issue of campground fees and upgrades on the agenda for the July 9 meeting.

Sidewalk vendor rules

The board is beginning to realize it needs some kind of lottery system when apportioning vendor licenses to outside vendors who want to sell food from a cart in the summer. A second vendor, Porky’s Patty Wagon, asked for a victualer license Tuesday for a mobile hot dog cart in the downtown.

The board gave its okay a few months back for a hot dog wagon to be set up this summer at Highland Lake Beach, but Sheila Rollins, the owner of Porky’s Patty Wagon, would like to be located there as well.

Selectmen agreed to Rollins’ request to sell food at 1 Depot Street on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but weren’t as sure when she asked to set up at the Highland Lake picnic area on the weekend when the annual Art in the Park event is held. Public Works Director Jim Kidder said the Bridgton Art Guild uses the picnic area for artists’ displays. The board told Rollins to check with the Art Guild, and also coordinate her cart’s placement with the other vendor that is selling from the public beach area.

“We also talked about (a lottery system) for Depot Street. Maybe we need to designate areas, instead of having the vendors fend for themselves, so to speak,” said Selectman Paul Hoyt.

Porky’s Patty Wagon will also be set up at 10 Skilling Circle, near the town’s Skateboard Park, but that location needs no license since it is on private property.

Sewer allocation allowed

Until the town completes work on the downtown sewer system infiltration and inflow project, selectmen are taking a cautious approach when it comes to requests for new allocation. However, the board agreed to go along with the Wastewater Committee’s recommendation to add another 90 gallons a day to the Depot Street Taphouse’s existing 264-gallon-per-day allocation.

The approval will allow the Taphouse to add another six seats to its plans. Committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman said the DEP is “willing to stretch a little for us, because they know we’re working really hard on the I and I (inflow and infiltration).

Even though it isn’t yet known how much septic field capacity remains at the Dodge Field, Berkowitz said, “Ninety gallons isn’t going to tip us into the dangerous zone.” But he promised the board he would seek the DEP’s opinion on how to handle future allocation requests.

Selectmen discussed a communication problem between Wastewater Committee Chairman Ray Turner and his committee, and Taft said he would speak to Turner about it.

The board also:

• Approved a request by the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation to string a banner across Route 302 to promote Bridgton as a destination for new business;

• Denied a request by Community H.E.L.P. to place a sandwich board sign at the corner of Nulty and Main Streets to direct residents to the Nulty Street facility. Such signs are not allowed under the town’s Sign Ordinance.

• Accepted, with regret, the resignation of Robert Fitzcharles as the town’s representative to ecomaine;

• Gave final approval to plans by the Literary Task Force to distribute free children’s books and read to children at Highland Lake Beach this summer. The Task Force will be at the beach on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and all five members have completed background checks and will wear ID badges, as requested by selectmen.

Taft to serve as chairman

Doug Taft will serve as the chairman of the Bridgton Board of Selectmen for the coming year. Taft was unanimously elected by his fellow selectmen on Tuesday, while Bernie King was elected as vice chairman.

Taft’s first action was to welcome newly-elected Selectman Ken Murphy to the board.

 

 

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