Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District sees jump in camping, park revenue

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Harrison News-Herald Photo/JD LONG: The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District held its first in-person meeting since February 2020, and the reports on parks and recreation were booming with good news. Many parks reported nearly 90% or beyond in net revenue.

NEW PHILADELPHIA—Newly appointed Chief Financial Officer of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District James Crandall provided a relatively positive outlook at last month’s meeting held at the Kent State Tuscarawas campus. It was the first in-person meeting for the District since February 2020.

Crandall told the board their total operating income so far had nearly doubled from this time last year, $9 million today versus the reported $4.8 million in 2020. When it came to operational revenue, he reported just over $16.9 million and 72% capacity of 2019’s budget. He said for the first half of 2020, though, they were only operating at 52% of the budget.  

“However, the difference between ’21 and ’19 as we were significantly carried by oil and gas that year,” Crandall explained. For June, those oil and gas royalties amounted to $913,000 or close to $5.3 million year-to-date, which is a 24% increase compared to this time last year, according to Crandall. 

“And the basic driver of that right now is commodity prices,” he stated. Other department’s financial situations included park revenue at $7.2 million for June 2021 versus $4.3 million in June 2020, a 60% increase. He said park camping was one of the numbers that impressed him, with an operating budget of 98%.

“To be at 98% of budget in June is unbelievable,” Crandall said. “And nearly every category is up significantly over the prior year.” He countered with negative news for gate revenue, though, which he said was down some. But Crandall stated that in 2020 many amenities were closed, and the District had little choice. But after comparing to 2019, the District felt they were “on par” there.  

Crandall moved to marina revenue, calling it a great year and up 26% (or nearly $2 million) compared to last year. Operational expenses are coming in at 43% of the budget, up 3% from 2020. He said after cost-control measures were implemented in 2020, the expense numbers were still on target. For the park master plan, expenditures were down 63% of the budget, with capital expenditures down 53%. Crandall said the maintenance assessment fund was also in line with last year’s budget, with expenses down 38%.

Turning to park net income, Crandall said all parks are over 100%: Charles Mill at 222%, Pleasant Hill at 142%, and Atwood Park approaching $2 million in revenue. He said Atwood finished around $2.4 million for all of 2020, which he called a record year for them. 

Crandall said they are up 45% in net income for marinas but then added the Tappan Marina project delay as a potential aspect for “budget impacts.”

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