Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Lazy River
By Laurie Willow
From Issue 23: Summer 2014
At the end of Bevier Road, winding along the Wallkill River, the 170 campsites at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Lazy River offer the ideal camping experience. “People can feel comfortable enough to let their kids run loose,” says co-owner John Lawrence. John and his wife, Heidi, along with Heidi’s brother, Glenn Bracklow, purchased the property in 1991. They transformed the prior existing campground, then brimming with potential and more than a few problems, into the present camper’s heaven. Jellystone has a sprawling, spacious set-up with cabins and plenty of riverside, meadow, and forest sites for RVs and tenters. The meadow sits above the river and is expansive enough to serve as a great landing field for sky divers, a special Gardiner touch much-loved by campers.
Since joining the Jellystone Park franchise (Leisure Systems, Inc.) two years into acquiring the property, the family-run business has attracted repeat generations of campers, and not only from New York State. Employing nearly thirty seasonal workers, including some of their own children, Heidi maintains that “they have eyes and ears all over the place” to keep tabs on the bustling campground.
The property buzzes with the energy of a community campground loved by seasonal long-term campers and first-time guests alike. Music pumps throughout the camp store and at the two outdoor heated pools. The Tiki Snack bar, offering ubiquitous summer vacation treats like ice cream and smoothies, adjoins the recreation hall, complete with a DJ booth, while outside the community fire pit beckons with family activities.
During the day, employees run arts and crafts workshops for kids, teens, and adults, with offerings such as tie-dyeing silk. In addition to the typical daily activities, each weekend of the season is given a theme, ranging from the candy-filled, kid-friendly “Show Your Sweet Side” to an Independence Day celebration with a professional DJ, followed by the release of over two hundred twenty Chinese lanterns into the night. The game room, mini golf course, playgrounds, and shuffleboard court round out the property to ensure there is always something to do, and the camp store, housed inside a former barn (complete with the quaint silo), offers all camping necessities.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Lazy River creates a summer community of families including the Lawrence family, who set up their own RV in the campground. While they have a house on the property where their children have grown up, they maintain the campsite for themselves because they simply love camping and as John says “Getting away from it all. When I think about all of the kids who have learned how to ride a bike here… and our own kids… and the guests who maybe don’t have big open fields, rivers and trees at home—it just makes me happy. It’s a happy place.”