Campground confusion in WNY as some are open and others not

Seasonal RV campers upset they can't use their units in Erie County-- but can in Niagara County
Posted at 7:05 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 10:22:02-04

AKRON, N.Y. (WKBW) — RV manufacturers saw a record number of sales over the past few years thanks to low interest rates and cheap gasoline costs. Normally, RVers like to start using their units in May - especially people who live in them for the entire season.

This year COVID-19 has created widespread confusion as campgrounds in some counties are open while others, in different counties, are prohibited from opening.

"They feel like their rights are being violated. These are their homes and they want to be able to get in," said Kristina Kaitanowski, park administrator for the Leisurewood Campground in Akron.

Leisurewood has 910 camp sites with 775 lease holders who leave their RV's on-site for the entire summer season. Several of those site holders are 'snowbirds' returning from Southern States to spend the summer in WNY.

They face a problem because all campsites in Erie County have been closed since April 15th when they were shut by Emergency Order. "We have people living in cars right now. We have more than 300 families displaced," said site holder Dan Nedescu.

One of the big worries for Leisurewood, and its RV users, is campgrounds might not be allowed to open until Phase-4 of the NYS reopening plane, which could be July added Kaitanowski. By then, most of the season that people paid for will be gone, added the Leisurewood park administrator.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D) said one of the main reasons for closing campgrounds was health officials feared the use of campground bathhouses and public areas could contribute to community spread of COVID-19.

On May 1st, Poloncarz asked the NYS Health Department for approval to revise the Emergency Order to allow seasonal use of RV's that were self-contained with bathrooms. Unfortunately, explained Poloncarz during a press conference, NYS is refusing the request on grounds that campgrounds are considered non-essential businesses.

All NYS campground, pavillions, and cabins are closed at least through May 31st. That affects three popular campgrounds at Four Mile Creek, Evangola, and Allegheny State Parks. NYS reservations for the 2020 season have been suspended. However, NYS may allow people who had previous camping reservations after June 1st to use those if the state campgrounds can be opened safely.


Things are very different in Niagara County where the Niagara County Legislature allowed private campgrounds to stay open if they follow strict social distancing guidelines.

"We are going to trust that people are going to behave themselves on our golf courses, campgrounds and marinas," said Niagara County Legislator Richard Andres (R-8th District).

Andres said a group called "Restart Niagara" looked at input from various parties and felt it is important to allow campgrounds to operate with self-contained RV units. One of the primary concerns, said Andres, was 'snowbirds' are now returning to WNY to use their RV's from now until October. "This is someone's home," commented the county legislator.

Not all private campgrounds in Niagara County have decided to open immediately. Some are postponing opening until later this year.

But there are strict rules in place for those that do open.

Niagara Hartland RV Resort told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that masks and social distancing by all of its RV users is required. The resort has closed bath houses, play areas, pavilions, and public areas in the campground. It will be policing the resort to make sure no more than 6-people are at campfires.

The resort plans to open on May 15th and said it is booked through the end of May.


As to the counties that are opening-up campgrounds, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncatz felt they were setting themselves up for problems. "It's arguable that they could be liable for the improper operation of the campground," said Poloncarz.

"If we have the opportunity to have businesses open, we will take that opportunity," said Niagara County Legislator Richard Andres.

Erie County operates a campground at Sprague Brook Park. Niagara County does not operate any campgrounds.