9504 Heath Road
Colden, New York 14033
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Celebrate National Camping Month at Colden Lakes Resort
Springville Journal - Sunday June 10, 2012 by: Lizz Schumer
photos by Lizz Schumer.
A ROAD DIVERGED IN A YELLOW WOOD -- Other sites are situated in a
wooded area, with room for the 40-foot campers Judy Brown said are now
popular. Colden Lakes Resort is what owner Judy (nee DiPietro) Brown
called "a well-kept secret." The campground, set back from the road on
Heath Road in Colden, has never been advertised, but still has a waiting list
for many of its seasonal camp sites. That popularity is what Brown called
"proof that we're doing something right."
The resort has been in operation at that spot since the late 1950s, when the
first of its several man-made ponds was installed. Since then, the property
has seen three owners. Brown has owned and operated the 140 sites for the
past 17 years, since she purchased the property in the spring of 1995.
"After high school, I owned a resort in Duluth, back in the 80s. I moved
home in the 90s and since I had been in the restaurant business before, I
bought this property when it came on the market," Brown said, adding that
the camping industry has changed since she first came on the scene,
particularly within the past five years or so.
"People are not traveling as much. They don't have as much money and gas
is expensive, so they are staying closer to home. As the economy goes
down, [the camping industry] goes up," Brown explained.
Colden Lakes Resort is comprised of mostly seasonal campers who arrive in
late April or early May, set up their campsites and stay until the end of the
season, around September or October. The resort has 127 seasonal sites and
13 sites that are available for weekends or shorter stays, although Brown
said they are filling up quickly.
She explained that many of her campers are seniors or "baby boomers"
who use their campsites as downsized summer homes.
"It's a great plan for retirement or snowbirds. Living in New York state is so
expensive. The [snowbirds often] sell the house, buy a camper, set up here
for the summer and [do] not have to pay property tax or [other New York
state resident taxes]. That way, they can use their money to make the most
of their retirement years."
Brown called her resort "a huge boost for the area," since many of her
residents venture to nearby Colden, Springville, East Aurora, Orchard Park
or farther afield to shop or explore.
"I have people from Springville, Orchard Park, Buffalo, all over, who came
to stay here. They'll head into town to do their shopping, especially if they're
not here for just a few days. It's great for the local economy."
Colden Lakes Resort is what Brown called "a relaxed, quiet environment,"
which is why she does not allow campers under the age of 21 without
"We don't want problems with underage drinking, making noise at all hours
of the night, that sort of thing. People sitting around the campfire all
evening is one thing, but no one wants to get woken up in the wee hours,"
she said. "For the most part, I never have any problem."
Colden Lakes Resort is "about 60 - 70 percent" seniors or near-retirees and
the rest of the campers are families or middle-aged residents.
After nearly 18 years of putting "every cent I make" back into the
campground, Brown said she is finally seeing the results of her endeavors.
"We have a waiting list. My campers tell me I have the nicest campground
in Western New York. My prices are reasonable and people keep their
properties really nice."
Brown explained that all campgrounds have "their own niche" with varying
degrees of amenities available, target demographics and overall camping
experience. She noted that state and county campgrounds often have fewer
amenities than privately-owned facilities, although the prices of those sites
often reflect that circumstance.
Colden Lakes Resort offers an in-ground swimming pool and kiddie pool,
playground, propane station, banquet facilities and restaurant on-site,
laundry, dumping station, electric hook-ups, arcade games, a softball
diamond, hiking trails, horseshoes and there is a ranch for boarding horses
for trail-riding located next-door.
In addition, the Colden Lakeside Restaurant, owned by "Moe and Grant,"
former employees of Brown's, is located on the property. That facility hosts
banquets, including weddings and parties, as well as offering full food
service seven days per week.
"It's great to have a restaurant right on-site," Brown said. "If people come in
late Friday night and get set up, then they don't want to cook. They can go
down and grab a fish fry and it's really convenient." The restaurant also
hosts live music on the weekends.
"It's a whole community here," Brown said. "I've met so many great people;
gotten to know a lot of campers who come back year after year. It took 17
years to get here, but business is good. I've brought Colden Lakes back from
When people are choosing a camp site or just getting started in the camping
world, Brown said her experience in the field has shown her that it is
important for campers to "think long and hard" about what they want out of
"People need to really do some soul-searching and figure out what they
want to do," Brown said, of first time campers. "A lot of people start up and
buy smaller campers; I see it every year. Sometimes, even before the end of
the season, they'll trade it in for a larger model."
Brown recommended a trailer for long-term campers, since the vehicle will
be parked for the entire season. A motor home, she explained, is better for
those who want to travel frequently.
"You've got to think about your ultimate goal. You've got to learn your
camper, how to operate everything," she added. The biggest learning curve,
Brown noted, is the water and sewage system.
"It's not like at home. You've got to be very conservative. You can't take
half-hour showers or leave the water running."
Once people learn the "bells and whistles" of their individual camper,
Brown said her customers tend to enjoy their experience and keep coming
back for more.
"We started to book up in February and March," Brown said, of the camping
fever that hit during this year's mild winter. "Everyone was thinking
Colden Lakes Resort can be reached at (716) 941-5530 and online at
www.coldenlakes.com or on Facebook