The disagreement between campgrounds and the town of White Lake needs to be settled, once and for all.
The town is struggling with some serious growth issues, and at the center of the conflict seems to be the campgrounds. While many of the campsites, with and without additional buildings, have always been safe and sturdy, there were plenty that needed a makeover, both for safety and aesthetics.
It’s natural that, as one of the largest businesses at the lake, Camp Clearwater would be the first camper park to undergo the door-to-door site inspections approved last year by the town. To both their credits, the town and the campground have worked diligently to perform those inspections, and target problems as defined by the town’s codes.
The promise by Camp Clearwater to lead the way among the town’s dozen campgrounds was not an empty one. In every case, Clearwater has gone beyond in its duty to be, as owner David Clark puts it, a good corporate citizen. Not many private businesses realize that they have such a stake in helping their hometowns prosper, and not many businesses would be willing to offer the loan of heavy equipment, personnel and other assistance to their local governments. Generally the town has been fair in their dealings with Clearwater, and the campground has reciprocated.
But to consider changing the rules, again, after finally completing the first inspections, would be unfair. This is especially the case since so many campers have already made substantial changes to their campsites. Setting the bar even higher, before the first hurdle has been cleared by everyone in the race, is patently wrong, and could give the town a bad image.
Clark and Clearwater Manager Larry Barnhart (who is also a town commissioner) have repeatedly asked that the town stick with one course. If some of the town board or their consituents want to eliminate campgrounds entirely at the lake (which no one has mentioned) then let them lay that idea on the table. The town could legislate campgrounds out of existence, although the procedure would be expensive, long and ugly.
Some reasonable rules are expected; any kind of residence, whether permanent or vacation home, needs to be in good shape, conform to those in its vicinity, be safe for the inhabitants, and be accessible by emergency personnel. Whether or not someone likes another’s choice doesn’t matter quite as much, unless the majority of the citizenry feels the same way.
White Lake is one of the best-managed towns in the region, and to see the board bogged down in continuing discussions about how to further regulate campgrounds is disheartening. At least nine other campground owners are still waiting for their own inspections, and wondering if their current attempts to come into compliance will be wiped out by further, stricter rules. Those other campground owners also have to worry if they’ll be able to attract customers if those customers are worried about being able to enjoy their own little place at the lake.
White Lake has always enjoyed a reputation as a resort for everyone, campers and condominium dwellers alike. This has helped the town prosper, and could continue to do so for years to come. We hope the board has settled this issue once and for all. The citizens, the campgrounds, the town board, and indeed, White Lake’s reputation all deserve something definite for everyone involved.
It takes a brave elected official to admit he might have taken the wrong tack, and White Lake Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Corbett is one of those.
Corbett, who initially proposed banning all additions except open decks, said publicly at the town’s March meeting that his position might have been extreme. He said he still wants the camper-addition issue examined closely, but a total ban on additions might be excessive.
Still, he made a point that shouldn’t be forgotten by either side.
Corbett reminded the crowd at the meeting that Camp Clearwater has been voluntarily bringing all its campsites into compliance. The town has performed door-to-door inspections at Clearwater, and the company has responded by telling campers which sites are in violation, and what must be done to bring everything into compliance. In most cases, the campground is actually requiring their customers to make changes in excess of those required to meet mkinimum standards.
At the same time, Corbett said, little or no change has been seen at any of the other campgrounds.
Yes, the remaining campgrounds are awaiting inspections by the town, but in most cases, campground owners wanting to obey the town rules need only use common sense and a telephone call to the town. Of course, not all campgrounds have violating structures, but the sad history of virtually no code enforcement - the blame for which is shared by the town, the campgrounds, and yes, some campers - means that more than one park has its fair share of non-complying construction.
Folks who love White Lake should have three wishes - that the remaining campgrounds get on the compliance bandwagon, the town board settles the addition issue once and for all, and enforcement is such that Corbett’s concern of “another town board ten or fifteen years from now dealing with this same issue” never comes to pass.