Boyd’s Key West Campground and Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa were both in Hurricane Irma's path, and now tell The Buzz how they fared.
Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, Bay Bayou RV Resort, Boyd’s Key West Campground
MobileRVing: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider, Written by Renee Wright
Months After Irma: Florida Campgrounds
The Buzz Checks In On Operations At Boyd’s Campground And Bay Bayou RV Resort As The Florida RV Parks Recall The Events During Hurricane Irma
On September 10, Hurricane Irma ripped its way up the Florida peninsula causing some spectacular damage, especially to the Florida Keys and the Gulf Coast of the state. The Buzz checked in with two Florida campgrounds in the path of the storm to see how they fared, what they are doing to recover, and how camping in Florida was affected for these areas.
Daniel Hamilton, owner of Boyd’s Key West Campground, and Darla Sinnard, manager at the Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa, both consider themselves lucky. Their parks escaped major damage and swiftly returned to business. However both knew of nearby campgrounds that sustained major damage.
The Florida Keys were under a mandatory evacuation order, and Hamilton said that all visitors and staff at Boyd’s were evacuated before Irma made landfall. “I haven't heard an actual wind speed estimate for our area, but with the winds coming directly across the water, there was little to slow it down. We had numerous boats that washed up on our shoreline and at our marina, and the winds did more damage to our trees than previous hurricanes we have been through.”
Damage was minimal, Hamilton found, since luckily the property did not flood. “Our primary damage was to trees and landscaping. We also had a number of wifi towers go down due to the wind as well as some fencing. The few RVs stored at our property survived with a couple losing their roof vent covers that caused some minimal water damage, and one trailer had a coconut tree fall onto it."
A matter of a few miles can make a huge difference in the effects of a storm. “We were extremely fortunate because the eye of Hurricane Irma passed to the east of Key West and spared us the worst of the winds,” Hamilton said. “The brunt of the storm hit the middle keys and I understand the state parks there could be closed for the better part of a year. Other private RV parks in the hardest hit areas in Florida may not open for many months.”
Hamilton reports that his staff wasted no time getting the park up and running. “Boyd's opened our doors approximately two weeks after the hurricane but primarily to first responders, relief workers and returning workers,” he said. “Once Key West and the Keys allowed residents back, our incredible staff went right to work cleaning up and getting the park open again. We also hired a number of additional workers whose employment was interrupted due to the hurricane who assisted in the recovery effort. Boyd's Campground is pretty much back to business as usual, but the hurricane recovery did set us back a few weeks on our preseason preparations.”
Tourism in the Keys suffered in the wake of the storm, Hamilton said. “The tourism industry was greatly impacted with fewer visitors staying in lodging establishments, eating at restaurants, and going fishing or diving or camping. Fortunately, Hurricane Irma hit during the slowest time of the year for many businesses. If our reservations are any indication, the winter season looks to be even busier than previous years. Downtown Key West is definitely open for business with abundant food and drinks flowing freely.”
The Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa received a mandatory evacuation order on Saturday, Sept. 9, which gave residents and guests only until dusk to leave the area. Irma, by then a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75-85 mph, crossed the Tampa area in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept. 11, and Manager Darla Sinnard returned that morning at 9 a.m. to assess the storm’s effects.
“I found that we had experienced only minor damage, tree limbs down, damaged trees, missing sections of fence and substantial debris,” she said. “We were very fortunate. A friend of mine, Wally Medley, is the General Manager of Olde Mill Stream RV Resort in Umatilla, FL and manages the park with his wife, Linda. They experienced a tornado during the hurricane and
approximately 20 RVs were destroyed.”
Darla said that the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds did a great job keeping everyone informed on Facebook as to which parks had damage and which were open for business to assist evacuees as they returned to the state.
“Power at Bay Bayou was restored to all sites on Monday, Sept. 11 by 7 p.m. and we were operational and open for business. We enlisted our tree service company, Independent Tree Service, and local lawn care services ATL and T4 to assist with debris removal and trimming damaged tree branches. The clean up was completed within a week of the storm.”
The biggest problems experienced by her residents and guests, according to Darla, involved the evacuation itself. “Evacuees experienced many difficulties with traffic, finding lodging, gas and food. Many gas stations were out of gas, grocery stores, restaurants and fast food outlets were closed. The evacuation was challenging as was the return to Florida.”
The recent Hurricane Irma experience demonstrates the dedication of campground management and staff in the state of Florida, a favorite destination for many RVers. When a storm strikes, they stand ready to mobilize immediately to get their facilities ready for visitors to return.
A graduate of Franconia College in Social Psychology, Renee has worked as Travel Editor for Charlotte Magazine and has written three travel guidebooks for Countryman Press among other writing assignments. She enjoys food and camping.
Make Sure To Stay At:
Boyd's Key West Campground, the most popular camping and RV Park in Key West and the Lower Keys. Boyds Campground is Florida Keys camping at its finest. Relax with your camper, RV or tent facing the beautiful oceanfront.