Campers have made reservations for 28 short-term stays at Point Mallard Campground since Saturday under a new policy making more spaces available, and 13 of the reservations are for the once-unobtainable Memorial Day weekend.
Park Manager Stephanie McLain said her staff took most reservation requests via telephone with a few people visiting the office in person. The park began taking reservations for 2021 on Saturday.
“Twenty-eight reservations is a good number for short-terms already,” she said. “About 70% were local campers and about 30% were from outside the area.”
Four of the 28 reservations for later this year involved the July 4 weekend. McLain said the other 11 early reservations are for nights scattered throughout the year.
In September, the Decatur City Council designated the popular 52 full-hookup sites in Section A as short-term sites. Long-term campers were asked to leave Section A by Dec. 15. Some long-termers moved to different areas of the campground and about 10 others left the city altogether.
McLain said last month that the new policies will allow more visitors and Decatur residents access to the 25-acre campground with its 233 full hook-up camp sites. “Prior to this, we didn’t take reservations in May, June, July” because there were no open slots due to long-term commitments, she said.
Decatur Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said the public still may be unaware of the new policy and it's too early to tell if the changes could hurt or help the campground's bottom line.
“We want our local residents to get into sites and at the same time we want to stay financially sound,” he said. “Right now, I don’t think people are thinking about camping. I think in the next couple of months more people will know more about our changes. We are just starting to see the real numbers come in and it will be some time before we know” true occupancy numbers.
With the coronavirus pandemic still not under control in the state, the status remains undetermined for the popular Alabama Jubilee at the Point Mallard Park on Memorial Day weekend and the Spirit of America Festival on the Fourth of July weekend.
Lake said COVID-19 hasn’t negatively impacted camping. “People feel safe camping and they know they are outside and away from other people,” he said.
Lake said nearly all campers now have recreational vehicles or trailers. “There aren’t that many tent campers out here anymore, but we have sites that can accommodate both tents and trailers,” he said.
McLain said short-term reservations must be for a two-night minimum and no longer than 14 days. Long-term campers can stay in one site for 179 days.
On Jan. 1, the campground’s daily rate increased from $33.60 to $42, weekly rates from $168 to $210 and monthly rates from $548.80 to $649. The fees include utilities, Wi-Fi and taxes.
Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, the campground’s bath houses remain closed, McLain said.