Camp FIMFO: $$$$

Posted 9/28/22

The Camp FIMFO informational session hosted by the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development on September 15 was, if nothing else, informative.

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Camp FIMFO: $$$$


The Camp FIMFO informational session hosted by the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development on September 15 was, if nothing else, informative.

There we learned that Camp FIMFO will be an upscale family-resort campground.

Some might argue that with recreation amenities such as a splash pool, a lounge pool surrounded by cabanas, mini golf, laundry facilities and a restaurant, the camping facility is more of a resort than a campground. Still, customers will have the choice of staying in a park-style RV, a tenting site, a glamping tent or in some sort of exotic housing pod. (Representatives indicated that the mountain coaster and the PILOT, actually, were not deal breakers.)

It’s not roughing-it camping, but it’s not resort-style accommodations either. And, according to representatives, the whole of the campground will be quieter with the changes. 

We now know that the daily occupancy numbers will be reduced by 500. This is due to plans that large campsites, with an occupancy limit of 10 people, will be replaced with the above-mentioned accommodations, which will host fewer campers. Traffic will not be increased, they say, because a four-night minimum will be stipulated. This means that the weekend traffic we experience now will be spread out throughout the week. 

The changing of the clientele from large boisterous partiers to families with children will calm and quiet the facility. Then, according to Northgate representatives, quiet hours will be strictly enforced. (Note: this is hypothetical, and there are news reports of neighbors complaining about the noise at a Jellystone Campground, another Northgate brand, in Gardiner.)

“I wish I had millions of dollars to make that kind of change to my campground,” said neighboring canoe livery and campground operator Rick Lander. 

Most interesting is that the change, from tenting sites to park-style RVs, triggers not only a potentially quieter and more orderly clientele, it triggers room tax.

Here’s how it works. No room tax is collected on tenting sites. It’s paid on cabins or, in this case, RV camp-style cabins. Room tax is calculated at five percent: while prices and costs aren’t yet finalized, that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to the county each and every year. On top of that, there is an eight-percent sales tax on those stays, merchandise and food, four percent of which goes to the county.

The changes price out a huge swath of our population, furthering gentrification of the region. “Let’s face it,” Rick said, “a week’s vacation is going to be thousands and thousands of dollars.” 

With that, the question becomes: how does that money need to be allocated in order to mitigate any loss of identity and pressure on the community? How can we assure that the money collected comes back to the river valley communities? Could those funds be directed to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Organization, to connect our communities through programming and improvements that enrich our quality of life? Could a portion of those monies be allocated, through the byway organization, to help the cash-strapped Upper Delaware Council and its oversight of the use of the valley’s resources?

Some say the project is too big, which may very well be true. However, as I see it, there’s no stopping this particular project. With the use grandfathered in, there are only ways to make the approval conditional. 

What do we need to do to mitigate the addition of a large corporation moving in and disrupting our way of life? What do we need to safeguard? 

First and foremost, conditions need to be put in place that protect our environment and subsidize our emergency services. (One thing we did learn is this campground, as well as others, does not have any medical staff or facilities on site. A camp nurse and an infirmary absolutely needs to be part of the conditions that the Highland Planning Board imposes on the project.)

And speaking of assistance and funding, while the PILOT agreement phases in taxes on real estate improvements and eliminates sales tax on those improvements, the improvements are still subject to special-district taxes, such as fire and ambulance districts, library district, etc.

We need to lobby the county to develop a plan to use the room tax and sales tax money to enhance the river valley. At this point, we don’t need additional monies to lure more visitors here. We need investment in quality of life issues. Affordable housing, opportunities for our children, building a resilient and sustainable identity. (Yes, yes, room tax money is specifically used to enhance tourism. And tourism includes agri-tourism, historical tourism, etc.)

Camp FIMFO brands itself on making memories of outside experiences for families. We need to ensure that families and our communities are not just pawns to be sacrificed to a consumption-focused corporate brand.

We need to build our own brand that encourages innovation, resilience, sustainability, a unique sense of place and thoughtful use of our precious natural resources, both people and landscape.

This will take a totally committed and engaged citizenry. We need to effectively ensure that the systems for use of water, sequestering of wastewater and stormwater management are robust and well regulated. We need to be organized and articulate about how this corporation can become a good neighbor and partner in our communities, offering opportunities for our youth beyond relatively low-paying jobs. And we need to make sure that the county legislature makes good decisions as to the investment of the additional monies that it will receive.

Make no mistake. This is a big project. And we have to exercise our power and attention to strategize how we could utilize its existence in our landscape to enhance our lives and our community.

fimfo, sullivan county, development


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