Local campgrounds begin to benefit from oil spill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

While the Gulf Coast tourism market is feeling the financial crunch of the oil spill, local campgrounds are beginning to see some of those tourists set up camp in Covington County.

As always, three of the campgrounds in Covington County – Frank Jackson State Park in Opp, Florala State Park and Sweet Home Alabama Campground – are booked or nearly booked for the upcoming holiday weekend.

And two of the three said campers are utilizing their facilities and forgoing oily beaches impacted by the Gulf oil spill.

“I know there was one family who cancelled their Destin plans and came here,” Thom Watson of the Sweet Home Alabama Campground said. “I’ve had six or eight calls in the past two weeks (regarding the facilities in light of the oil spill).”

Watson said he anticipates that number will rise as the both the summer travel and the number of impacted areas continues to increase.

At Florala State Park, Lola Becker said she’s seen some campers choose to stay in Florala rather than the beach.

“There are some that have been here because of the oil spill,” she said. “We’re having a lot of people. We don’t now if it’s because of the oil spill; we do have a lot of our regulars.”

Becker said the campground is booked for the July 4 weekend and the weekend after it.

While Opp’s Frank Jackson State Park officials haven’t specifically seen any campers using their facilities because of the oil spill, they are reporting a good number of campers.

Park worker Chris Jones said he the park is booked for the holidays.

“We’re usually booked for the weekend,” he said. “The best way to do it here is to make a reservation.”

The July 4 holiday weekend is usually one of the biggest beach weekends of the year, and Gulf Coast hotels, condos and other property rentals are offering discounts and other promotions to try and make up for the profits that have been lost.

In fact, one of the largest vacation rental companies in the Destin, Fla.-area is offering discounts to those who will stay five nights or longer through the July 4 holiday.

The company is even offering a 100 percent refund if the county closes a beach for safety reasons.

Shown is one of the campers and tents set up at Sweet Home Alabama Campground Monday. | Kendra Bolling/Star-News