Government Waste

Massachusetts Spent Millions on a Campground It Can't Seem To Keep Open

Meanwhile a privately owned campground nearby works to bring in business


When COVID-19 hit, I quarantined in Eastern Massachusetts.

Biking around the woods, I noticed something strange.

There are two campgrounds near my house. One is full. Lots of people pitch tents or park trailers at a place called Maurice's.

A short bike ride away is a much bigger campground that's almost entirely empty.

Why? It's the topic of my new video.

The empty campground is run by the state.

It has great facilities: a new paved road, new bathrooms, etc. Signs direct people to campsites, even to group camping, but there are almost no people. Dozens of picnic tables are turned upside-down.

What a shame. This would be a great place to spend time during the pandemic.

I asked one of the few people camping, "Why is this place so empty?"

"Everything is sold out," he responded.

Indeed, signs do say, "Camp is Full." But the camp is the opposite of full.

"I think it's so empty because of COVID," said another camper.

"Why would COVID-19 make it empty?" I ask. "It's camping! You got lots of room."

She agreed, saying she's also wondered about that.

We asked the Massachusetts Department of Parks why its camp was largely empty. They didn't respond. We kept calling and emailing until, nine days later, someone told us that they'd "had difficulties hiring seasonal employees."

Really?! This summer, Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in America. The state offers to pay workers up to $25 an hour, including benefits. Yet, they can't find people who'd work outdoors in a beautiful place in the summer?

Maurice's Campground managed to hire enough staff. They have to because Maurice's is privately owned. If they don't please customers, then they can't stay in business. "If there was no staff, we were the staff," says owner John Gauthier.

Gauthier innovates. Sometimes campers have helped clean the camp or staff the office. To save water, he charges customers 25 cents for six minutes in the shower. At the state camp, water is free; campers can waste all they want.

The government bought the property in 2019 for $3.6 million. Last year, the camp's revenue fell thousands short of its operating costs. Now it loses even more money because it's largely empty.

Such clear demonstrations of the difference between public and private are everywhere. But few people realize the reason why.

Recently, The New York Times published an op-ed by Sex in the City actress Cynthia Nixon about her dismay over seeing her kids' public school's "chaotic … and profoundly unsafe approach to reopening." By contrast, her Netflix production company was totally ready.

She's become a politician, so she blames "underfunding." She doesn't mention that New York's government-run schools spend more than $20,000 per student.

Her production company was ready because it's private. The bosses spend their own money. Spend it well, and they profit. Spend it badly, and they're out of work. That focuses the mind.

Governments spend other people's money. No one spends other people's money as carefully as we spend our own.

The owner of Maurice's Campground tries harder, and because of that, he serves many more campers than the taxpayer-subsidized camp.

"It's kind of unfair," I say to Gauthier. "You have to compete against the government, which is losing all this money."

He answers, "Yeah, it's not a great scenario, but what can we do?"



NEXT: Biden’s Sudden Reticence on Court Packing Is Alarming

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  3. There was a similar story about Arizona or New Mexico, I think; they had privatized their state parks and campgrounds. They lowered prices, had more customers, and happier customers. One of the explanations was remarkably simple: private businesses want to get more customers so they can get more business, so they have to work to attract customers by repeat business and word of mouth; the state system budget is set by the legislature, so they actively discourage customers to make sure they end the year without going into the red; if they made the mistake of attracting more customers, their budget has no room for hiring extra help, so everybody would be working overtime for free.

    1. so they actively discourage customers to make sure they end the year without going into the red; if they made the mistake of attracting more customers, their budget has no room for hiring extra help
      … but also spend like drunken soldiers in Q4 so they don’t have unused funds

    2. Yes, the key difference: trying to provide what people want (and are willing to pay for) vs. providing what some third party thinks is good for people (and taking their money regardless of appeal).

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  5. Not in the slightest surprised. Good article, this is the sort of thing that really highlights how bad the government is at doing anything in comparison to the private sector.

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  7. Same can be said about just about everything. Schools. Private schools are doing everything to get open but public ones are doing the opposite.

    The reason is parents aren’t paying tuition for a virtual private school. No tuition , no private school. But we are forced to pay taxes for the virtual public school. Public schools and gov’t in general has a guaranteed income open or not.

    1. Public school teachers love virtual classes. They have less responsibility as the kids use the mute button and mock the teacher, chat on the phone with their buddies and snack and the teacher doesn’t have to discipline them. So, it is a win win. The teacher gets paid and the kids ignore the teachers.

      I know of one kid who was excused from school to go ride horses and round up cattle for a couple of hours as long as he wrote a two page paper on what he learned. Miss a full day of school by having fun now that sounds like a good for both teacher and kid.

      1. Pity the poor child who has a Nerf gun visible in the background….

  8. For a lot of these people with campers it is a social thing. They go the same week each year and get friendly with the same people. So even if the state park is spruced up they are not going to switch.

  9. …and progressives think the government should take over health care?

  10. Government can’t create. Government can only redistribute or destroy. And government redistribution entails much destruction. And government destruction entails much redistribution.

    Government’s only competency is in incompetency, and government’s only efficiency is in inefficiency.

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