Calaveras Enterprise

Calaveras County rolls into Labor Day weekend

Despite the fact that many schoolchildren have already started class and fuel prices are topping off above $2 a gallon, many businesses in Calaveras County expect throngs of tourists to visit the county this weekend.

Campgrounds up and down highways in Calaveras are booked to capacity. Teresa Plowman, a senior park aide at Calaveras Big Trees State Park said all 129 campsites there are reserved for the weekend.

At New Hogan Reservoir, Kathy Fuentes with the Army Corps of Engineers said all 122 spaces are booked for the holiday with the exception of the lake’s boat access sites.

“Those 30 sites are first come, first served,” Fuentes said. “You have to pack in water” to the spaces across the lake from the rest of the developed campgrounds.

At New Melones Lake there are more than 300 campsites, but they are all first-come, first served, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Head Park Ranger, Paul Barney said the Labor Day holiday isn’t the busiest weekend for the popular recreation area.

“Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are very busy for us,” Barney said. “For Labor Day we generally have sites available throughout the weekend.

“We expect to be busy. This weekend is the last hurrah.”

The bureau has drawn criticism from guests in the past on those hectic summer holidays because there is no reservation system in place. Families often drive to New Melones in their campers only to find all the spaces full.

In November, Barney said New Melones will join a nationwide system and visitors will be able to reserve their campsites ahead of time.

“This way people will know they have a space waiting for them,” Barney said.

The new system will be in place Nov. 19 he added.

Getting on the water can be a hectic undertaking over a crowded three-day weekend, and Howard Lowe, general manager of the New Melones Marina, said he believes the slow-but-sure shift in starting dates for school has cut into his Labor Day weekend business.

“It’ll be a very busy weekend” at the marina, Lowe said, but houseboat rentals are slowed over the three-day weekend. “We have more dis-tance business on all four weekends of September.”

That distance business – or customers who travel from farther than 50 miles away – constitutes only a small portion of Lowe’s Labor Day traffic, but local boating enthusiasts and fishermen make up the difference.

“We anticipate plenty of activity on the lake,” Lowe said.

Lisa Reynolds, executive director of the Calaveras County Visitors Bureau, said she feels skyrocketing gas prices are forcing some tourists to stay at home this year.

“I think (high fuel prices) are going to hurt this weekend,” Reynolds said. “They’ve hurt us all summer long. When you drive by and see $2.35 at the pump” it’s not good. “This weekend feels like it’s not going to be as busy.”

But for Marla Allison, owner of Ebbett’s Pass Sporting Goods in Arnold, the holiday weekend looks to be a productive one and the question is which day will be the busiest.

“We’re wondering if we’ll be busy on Friday or Saturday,” Allison said. “With school in session, we might get really crazy on Saturday.”

Campers, hikers, hunters and fishermen stop into the store to gather equipment on their way up Highway 4 to Big Trees or one of many lakes at the higher elevations.

LaQuita DeMarco, president of the Calaveras County Association of Realtors, said the Labor Day weekend can be a crapshoot for area real estate agents.

“It’s sporadic,” DeMarco said. “You never know. I’ve had weekends that were slow and others that were very busy.”

Upcountry along the Highway 4 corridor, vacation rentals provide a homey place for visitors to stay and Don Shinn, of Barry Ward Realty, said this weekend looks to be moderately busy.

“About one-third of the units I manage are rented (this weekend), one-third will be owner-occupied and one-third will be unoccupied,” Shinn, who manages both full- and part-time rentals for the agency, said.

For a description of events scheduled in the county this weekend, check today’s edition of Just for Fun.

Contact Mike Taylor at

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