Record number of campers seen in three Clallam County parks

Advertising, economic factors and ‘word of mouth’ reviews are credited for rise.

PORT ANGELES — There are lots of happy campers in Clallam County.

The county parks system has hosted a record number of campers in recent years, thanks in part to advertising, economic factors and “word of mouth” reviews, county Parks, Fair and Facilities Director Joel Winborn surmised.

So far this year, revenue from overnight camping is up 6.2 percent at Salt Creek Recreation Area, 13.9 percent at Dungeness Recreation Area and 25.4 percent at Camp David Jr., Winborn told county commissioners Tuesday.

“We’re obviously really happy to see those numbers,” Winborn said.

Salt Creek, the county’s most popular park, had a record 13,202 occupied campsites and generated $330,374 in revenue in 2015.

For comparison, the iconic park west of Port Angeles had 11,513 occupied campsites and spawned $265,364 in revenue in 2014.

Similarly, Dungeness Recreation Area saw its occupancy climb from 6,344 in 2014 to 7,151 last year.

Revenues rise

Revenue from the park at the foot of Dungeness Spit rose from $141,178 in 2014 to $163,941 in 2015.

“We’re having another outstanding year on our parks,” Winborn said.

“We keep seeing an increase every year.”

Overnight fees at Salt Creek and Dungeness — $20 for county residents and $23 for non-county residents — have not changed since 2013.

The cabins at Camp David Jr. drew about 1,500 people and generated more than $51,000 in revenue in each of the past two years.

The camp on the north shore of Lake Crescent is open from mid-April to mid-October.

Salt Creek Recreation Area set occupancy records in every month of last year, Winborn said.

Last July and August, Salt Creek had a 91 percent occupancy, with 84 of its 92 campsites filled on average per day.

The Dungeness county park had an 85 percent occupancy last summer and its highest annual occupancy since 1997, according to Winborn’s analysis.

“The really cool thing for me is that when you look at where the campers are coming from, there’s an increase across the board from county residents in all three campgrounds,” Winborn said.

Last year, 34 percent of Salt Creek campers were Clallam County residents, compared to 28 percent the year before.

Thirty-six percent of last year’s Dungeness campers were county residents, up from 21 percent in 2014.

Camp David Jr. had a 57 percent local occupancy in 2015, up from 48 percent in 2014.

Roughly 45 percent of the non-Clallam County campers are Washingtonians, and about 20 percent are from out of state or from other countries.

Winborn speculated that more local residents are taking advantage of their parks because of the economy.

“But in the end who really knows?” Winborn said in an email.

“I think ‘word of mouth’ plays a pretty significant role too.”

The county in recent years has increased its out-of-market advertising with TV spots and mailings to “get the word out on what a great place Clallam County is and what we have to offer,” Winborn said.

“We do our best to make everyone’s stay the best it can be, and that’s what we focus on, and that’s what brings folks back,” Winborn added.

“Thankfully, most of the time, we get it right.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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