County parks systems has best summer on record

LEROY — Success can be measured a lot of ways.

Osceola County Parks Director Carl Baumgras measures it by lit campfires, tent stakes, fifth-wheels and families enjoying the Osceola County Parks system.

Over the summer, Baumgras saw more of those things at Crittenden Park in Sears and Rose Lake Park near LeRoy, the two county parks.

“Our summer went great,” he said. “This will go down as our very best season for our county parks.”

Baumgras said there were a few things that contributed to a strong summer for the parks system, including lower gas prices as well as the parks being located at two beautiful lakes.

However, the parks director said the biggest factor was the summer of 2016 proved to be good for camping.

“Camping is the cheapest thing for a family to do,” he said. “You can spend $20 and spend a night in the campground and enjoy all the amenities. It’s an economical thing.

“It also was a long summer great for swimming.”

Baumgras, who has been with the county parks for more than eight years, added the work of the parks managers and having good campers made the season run smoothly.

“The managers go above and beyond what they have to do,” he said. “They hold family movie nights and other activities for kids and families. Whether they are paid staff or our volunteers, they put in the effort to make our camps what they are.”

Brian Steig, who will be Rose Lake’s manager next summer, said staff members at the parks create a family-friendly atmosphere.

“It’s a team effort by all the staff at Rose Lake and Crittenden,” he said. “We do family events, have a Halloween haunted trail at Rose Lake and other events over the summer. We have people calling and scheduling their time around our events.

“We have a lot of locals who enjoy Rose Lake,” he said. “There are folks from all over the state, and out of the state, who are just passing by and stop in to see what we are doing.”

Under the auspices of the Osceola County Parks Commission, the parks system is ran strictly on its receipts, Baumgras said.

“The money we do have goes right back to improving the infrastructure at the parks and the facilities,” he explained. “Our big project this year was the dedication of the Rose Lake Mini Golf Course. We have some projects in the hopper to get done for the beginning of next year.

“We’ve been able to make the parks more appealing to folks, stopped some of the partying that used to happen and turned it around. That type of work also helps draw campers.”

Drawing campers hasn’t been a problem this summer, as they had campers making reservations for the season in January.

“We’ve had people coming here and camping at Rose Lake park for 50 years,” Baumgras said.

“We have folks who bring their families here because their parents brought them here when they were younger, because their parents brought them,” Steig added.

“Our best advertising is word of mouth,” he added. “The managers and I hear that everything is great, the facilities are nice and they’re excited to come back each year.”

Baumgras said the department uses social media and the internet to keep the faithful campers informed of what is happening at the parks, as well as doing some advertising.

“The big thing with camping, is to get the young kids involved as much as possible,” Baumgras said. “If the families aren’t coming, then the kids aren’t going to enjoy it or like it. They’re not going to come.

“It’s important to get them involved and let them experience it. The kids are the base for future years.”