Last Friday, the Government Justice Center sent a letter to the Rensselaer County Health Commissioner and Empire State Development demanding that the county and state stop preventing out of state seasonal campers from returning to their summer homes in private campgrounds.

Campgrounds are places of accommodation permitted to be open under the Governor’s “NY Pause” orders and ESD related guidance. The County, however, refuses to issue permits required by the New York Sanitary Code for campgrounds to open for the season. 

Closed campgrounds are keeping summer residents from returning to their seasonal homes, sometimes stranding campers forced to leave their winter sites in other states.

GJC represents Frank Gevelick who already paid his seasonal fees and wishes to return to the fifth wheel camper trailer he stores at the campground over the winter. It’s a self-contained seasonal home where he and his wife can maintain social distancing. Mr. Gevelick and his wife also plan to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return.

As GJC pointed out, private campgrounds in other parts of the state are open, with reasonable rules and restrictions in place. Yesterday, Erie County announced its order closing campgrounds will be expiring. Erie County campgrounds are now open but are limited to self-contained units, with no public facilities and no social gatherings.

Erie County’s announcement also makes clear that the state is not standing in the way of campgrounds opening. Throughout the state, campground openings vary depending on the actions of local governments. 

“The state keeping campgrounds open and counties issuing rules and guidance limiting public interaction make sense for protecting physical and mental health. Such local orders recognize that campers can take personal responsibility and exercise common sense,” said Cam Macdonald, GJC’s executive director. “Rensselaer County’s refusal to issue permits, on the other hand, makes no sense, and is depriving the Gevelicks of their rights to use and enjoy their property.”

ESD did not respond to GJC’s letter. According to the Times Union, however, ESD is not claiming any authority over private campground openings. 

“The County’s finger pointing is not an excuse, and its Health Department should be doing its job and issuing permits without the need for a lawsuit compelling it,” said Macdonald. 

Read the full letter here.