Welcome to Colden Lakes!
From the Springville Journal - Sunday June 10, 2012 by: Lizz Schumer
photos by Lizz Schumer.
Celebrate National Camping Month at Colden Lakes Resort
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 parental accompaniment.
"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 is located on the property. The restaurant offers a full food service dining room and bar seven days per week. The facility also hosts banquets, including weddings and parties.
"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 the grave."
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 the experience.
"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 camping."
Colden Lakes Resort can be reached at (716) 941-5530 and online at www.coldenlakes.com or on Facebook.