ST. REGIS FALLS ––The St. Regis Falls Scenic Campground and the municipal beach will not open for the 2020 summer season.
The Waverly Town Board voted unanimously Monday to keep the campsite and beach closed, even if the area reaches phase four of the state’s process for reopening businesses that were closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recreational facilities are among the businesses that are slated to open in phase four, although some campsite and beaches –– including some state facilities –– have already opened for limited use, Supervisor Chad Rivers said.
Opening the town’s campsite and beach could create significant safety issues for town residents and visitors, Rivers said, noting the difficulty of maintaining social distancing on a beach.
Councilor William LaBounty said he was concerned about opening the facility because of the large number of people from out of the immediate area it attracts. Opening up the campground would open up the town to a possible surge in virus infections brought in from outside the area, he said.
That logic was at least part of the reason the Franklin County Agricultural Society decided to cancel this year’s edition of the county fair, LaBounty added. “They were thinking along the same lines as we are,” he said.
The town has already received requests for reservation refunds totalling about 60% of the annual revenues raised by the campgrounds, as regular visitors to the facility rethink their summer plans in light of the virus, Rivers noted. The cancellations will create “a fiscally challenging year” even if the campground does open, as new reservations are unlikely to fill the gaps created by the cancellations, he said.
Money to help out the town may be available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief program, he added.
Councilor Nick Lansing noted that the area has just begun the phase one reopening, and with each phase not scheduled to take place until at least two weeks after the prior phase begins, any reopening would not occur until well into the summer season.
Rivers pointed out that the peak time for the campground is in June and early July –– a timeframe that will likely be all but over by the time the region reaches phase four.
Although several Town Board members said they did not want to close the campground, they felt circumstances made doing so the responsible course of action.
“It’s the right decision,” LaBounty said.
The same rationale was applied to the decision to close the municipal beach, with the added consideration that lifeguards and other staff at the facility were “a little hesitant” about working there because they would find themselves in close proximity to others, Rivers said
The board also voted to cancel the town’s Youth Corps summer jobs program, which had already attracted 13 applicants. Board members again cited concerns about exposing the workers to the COVID-19 virus and noted that –– because many of the youth in the program work at the campground or the beach –– there would be little for them to do.