WESTVILLE CENTER — It’s been 50 years since Dick Travers and his wife, Vi, opened Pine Ridge Park campground in Westville.
She remembers her surprise when he told her his plans. It wasn’t long before Dick’s dream were a reality.
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“He was a futuristic type of guy who felt camping was going to catch on in a big way,” she said. “Back then, anyone who camped just put up a tent, wherever. It wasn’t anything like it is today.”
The couple cleared, hauled and set up the necessary sites and buildings for the anticipated guests. Their three children were brought up in the business. Nancy, Paul and Craig thought everybody lived like them, working and playing at the campground.
In 1978, they sold the campground to Walter and Annie Figsby, who ran it until 1993. Ownership then passed to the Traverses’ daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Brad Fletcher, who have made it part of their daily lives.
“I guess you could say I never left home,” said Nancy, 53, about growing up at the Route 122 campground. “I keep saying some day I’m going to pack my bags and leave, but I don’t see that happening.”
Mother and daughter both agree that camping in 1963 was very different from camping in 2013.
“It used to be that a campfire at night was all the campers needed for entertainment,” Nancy said. “Now we have so many activities, especially on the weekends.”
The Fletchers offer horseshoe tournaments, dances, a library, playground, recreation room, an in-ground pool, baseball field, game room and much more. They also have a well-stocked store.
“We don’t sell alcohol or offer massage therapy,” she said with a laugh. “That’s a resort, which we are not.”
Today’s recreational vehicles are like upscale “homes on wheels.” With televisions, satellite dishes, washers and dryers, microwaves and other modern appliances, the Fletchers had to upgrade the electrical service to accommodate the demand.
“The park started out with 25 sites, then went to 32 and now we have 150,” Brad said, adding that 137 have electricity and the rest are what are called primitive sites, more like for tents.
“We also have a cabin that we rent out.”
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Brad, 57, who retired seven years ago, was a sergeant and communications specialist with the New York State Police. He enjoys his days spent outdoors at the park but especially looks forward to meeting the people.
“We have campers come from all over the world, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and especially Canada,” he said. “But a lot of our campers are local and come back year after year. They have become like family.”
Spread over high and low acreage, sites are larger than usually found in campgrounds, allowing campers “some real estate” to enjoy, as Nancy puts it.
Campers can locate in the tall pines, planted years ago by Vi and Dick, in the open fields, or along the Salmon River that winds its way around the perimeter of the land. Roadways are designated by such names as Critter Way, Kristal Boulevard (after their daughter), Easy Street, Fletcher Road, Meadow Circle and Ian Alley (after their son).
Waterfront sites rent for $1,150 a season and have a waiting list. Sites with electricity cost $850 a season, which is May 15 to October 15. For the short term, sites are $22 a day without electric, $33 with electric and a $2 daily charge for visitors.
There are some campers who have been there each season for the past 50 years. Vi and Nancy have seen four generations of families grow up and come to Pine Ridge Park. Vi said they never had any trouble and there were no set rules.
Nancy finds rules are a necessity today. Dick died in 2009, but she remembers him telling her “water reaches its own level, sit back and watch” when trouble arises. She has applied that wisdom whenever problems have arisen at the park.
“I try to be firm, not rigid,” Nancy said. “We have to be vigilant, also, to keep the kids safe. Any parties get out of hand or any fighting and they are asked to leave. We can’t have that at a family campground.”
Holiday observances are fun days at Pine Ridge Park, including July 4th, Halloween and Christmas with competitions among campers who decorate their sites. Beginning in 1994, 12 people joined in the Fishing Buddies Club, digging for worms in a grassy compost pile the park tends year round. The latest event included 85 kids.
The park has hosted weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, birthday and graduation parties. On June 21, they will host their 50th anniversary celebration with a ‘50s and ‘60s theme. The event will include a DJ, pizza, 5-cent admission, cake and kids programs. It is open to campers and the public.
On Memorial Day weekend, a remembrance service was held in honor of seasonal campers who have passed away. A large rock, situated in a flower garden and a tree grove, holds 36 name plates. It’s not unusual for 150 people to attend the service.
“The campground keeps you young,” Nancy said, “You see the kids, you meet the families, become good friends, and you have a lot of laughs. Most of the time its restful.”
Email Susan Tobias @ email@example.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Pine Ridge Park 212 Route 122, Constable, N.Y. 12926 Town of Westville
Office: 358-4125 Open May 15 through Oct. 15 yearly