ELDON — The campground at Lord Selkirk Park here may soon fall into private hands.
The provincial government isn’t selling the campground but it is strongly considering issuing a request for proposals to have someone in the private sector lease it or take over the management of the park.
Tourism Minister Robert Henderson said Monday someone has already expressed an interest in taking over management of the scenic park.
“From our perspective, the campground has been somewhat underperforming, comparable to other campgrounds in our chain of campgrounds, and we thought maybe this is an opportunity that makes some sense,’’ Henderson said.
The province currently spends about $3 million to operate 24 campgrounds but only pulls in $1.3 million in revenue. The disadvantage the province has is it markets the campgrounds in general, not individually. It does have a few successful campgrounds, such as Red Point, Cedar Dunes and Cabot Park.
Lord Selkirk Park wouldn’t be the first provincial campground to have management fall into private hands. Green Park and Campbell’s Cove are both owned by the province but run privately.
Henderson said numbers at Green Park doubled the year after the private sector took over management and increased another 20 per cent last year over the previous year.
The campground at Lord Selkirk Park is costing the provincial government $75,000 alone in just operational costs, not including any capital investment.
Henderson said even though they have someone in the private sector interested in leasing or managing the Eldon campground, they will still pursue the RFP process so everyone who may have an interest in running the site gets a chance to apply.
David Cooper, chairman of the Belfast Development Corporation, said the province approached his group to see if it would be interested in taking over the campground.
“There was too big a debt load each year,’’ Cooper said. “We said we couldn’t afford the debt at all.’’
The Belfast Development Corporation (BDC) is already carrying debt from its golf course, Belfast Highland Greens, and operates the public swimming pool at Lord Selkirk Park.
Many in the community would like to see upgrades made to the campground, such as establishing three-way sites at the campground. The sewer system alone would cost $320,000.
Henderson said if a private firm does end up taking over the campground and makes improvements to the site, it will only benefit the golf course and pool.
Henderson said an RFP would examine a whole host of issues, such as what plans the private firm or individual has in terms of staffing needs since the
priority will be to hold on to all or as many jobs as possible.