County Lowers Camping Fee For In-County Seniors, Raises It For Non-Residents

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The County Commission on Wednesday lowered the overnight camping fee for in-county seniors and raised it for non-residents at Chester Frost Park.

The charge for non-Hamilton County residents for waterfront spots goes from $25 per night to $30 per night.

It drops for county seniors, veterans, military and ADA from $22.50 per night to $18.75 per night.

The remainder of the new price list includes:

Non-Hamilton County residents:

Inland $28.50

Tent and utilities $26

Primitive $21

Non-Hamilton County residents senior, veteran, military, ADA:

Waterfront $28.50

Inland $27.08

Tent and utilities $24.70

Primitive $19.95

Hamilton County residents:

Waterfront $22.50

Inland $21.15

Tent and utilities $18.90

Primitive $14.40

Hamilton County residents senior, veteran, military, ADA:

Inland $17.63

Tent and utilities $15.75

Primitive $12

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he ran into a roomful of unhappy seniors at a recent meeting at the park.

He said, "One lady speaking up about charges at other campgrounds across the country probably saved us from being lynched."

County Mayor Coppinger said the seniors were upset that camping fees for them had been raised to $22.50 per night, and he said he was sympathetic.

He said many have been staying off and on at the popular park on Lake Chickamauga for many years. He said, "One camper had stayed 110 days in the same spot last year. Some of them are there long enough to grow tomatoes."

County Commission members, at a budget session on Tuesday, had recommended the increase for non-residents.

Chairman Chester Bankston said he believed the $25 per night could rise to $35 per night without much kickback.

About 40 percent of those who camp at the park are from out of county - many from out of state.

Lee Norris, general services administrator, agreed that the non-resident charge could go up some. However, he said he did not want to get above the rate at Harrison Bay State Park just across the lake.

Commissioner Joe Graham, whose family formerly operated Raccoon Mountain Campground, said Chester Frost Park can charge more because it has amenities that many other local campgrounds don't have - especially the lake itself.

County Mayor Coppinger said seniors complained that campers are the only ones being charged at the park, though there are many other users.

There was discussion of setting a $2 boat launching fee at Chester Frost Park.

The county will likely start charging promoters of bass tournaments for use of the park. County Mayor Coppinger said the promoters do not object to the fee. 

There is a follow-up meeting at Chester Frost Park on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the pavilion.

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