By Krystle S. Morey
Hundreds of people traveled to the Mettowee Off Road Extreme Park’s annual Spring Fling last weekend to enjoy fun in the sun – and the mud – but event organizer Ralph Jameson said the crowd was significantly lower than it would have been had overnight camping been allowed.
Jameson, the park owner, said the turnout didn’t begin to compare to the same event in years past. About 1,500 people and more than 250 vehicles converged on Saturday, the busiest day. Mudboggers and spectators also frequented the park on Friday and Sunday.
A cool Friday and Saturday were followed by a beautiful Sunday, good mudding weather, Jameson said, but contentions with the town hindered attendance. Because Jameson did not obtain a camping permit before the Spring Fling, event attendees could not legally stay at the park overnight.
“Without camping, you don’t get a crowd,” Jameson said, noting that some attendees made reservations at nearby hotels. “You have camping and everybody comes.”
In the past, when Jameson hosted camping at the park, the annual Spring Fling would draw more than 3,000 people a day.
“We already were licensed by the New York State Health Department for camping and the town took it away by passing these trailer park laws as campground laws,” he said.
“I will get my permit with the state and then my lawyers will deal with the town,” he added. “We are going to keep going and we’re not going to stop. This place is part of the community and it’s well-known. Everybody loves to come here.”
Jameson took some flack in recent weeks from past patrons regarding the lack of camping this year.
“They’ll appreciate the camping more when I do have it,” he said.
Town Supervisor Matt Hicks said he was contacted by several Spring Fling regulars in recent weeks who complained about the lack of camping offered at the event.
“We didn’t deny him camping,” Hicks said. “Camping is allowed in the town of Granville. You just have to follow the rules and get the permit.”
Hicks said that Jameson has not yet satisfied the public health and public safety criteria to receive the permit.
“He still has a lot of steps to go through to get there,” Hicks said, mentioning all he has seen are maps and drawings. “Nothing has progressed beyond there. There has to actually be stuff done.”
Hicks added: “If he wants to have camping, we are looking for things from him. If he is looking to have an event similar to what transpired this past weekend, we are where we are. There is nothing moving backwards or forwards.”
Regardless, Hicks said Monday that this year’s Spring Fling event was “significantly better” than last year.
Hicks said he visited the Mettowee Off Road Extreme Park a few times this past weekend.
“I went several times on Saturday and once on Sunday,” he said. “The crowd wasn’t as big as it was last year. It certainly changed significantly from last year. I think we are headed in the right direction.”
Of the town’s concerns with the Spring Fling event – keeping traffic flowing on County Route 12, mud on the main road and noise control – Hicks said: “This year they were either addressed … or they weren’t quite as big of a deal as they were in previous times.”
Hicks said the Washington County Sheriff’s Department addressed a few issues with event attendees parking on the side of the road.
“The sheriffs did a really good job,” he said. “They had quite a presence and they kept traffic flowing.”
He added: “They knew, based on the last couple of years, what could happen up there … and they were there and they were on it.”
Hicks said he also saw New York State Police and Town Constable Raymond Boyea helping to monitor the area.
The town has also, historically, been concerned about the large amounts of mud tracked out onto the main road outside the off-road park.
Regarding the mud on the road, Hicks said: “While there was some, it was nothing compared to last year.”
There were pressure washing stations available for attendees to wash off their rigs before exiting the park. The large washing station Jameson planned on having operational by last weekend was still under construction.
In the past, when the mudboggers camped at the park overnight, town officials received complaints from neighbors about excessive noise, but since the park did not have a camping permit, the noise level was lower.
“From what I understand, the noise was down significantly,” Hicks said.
Regarding safety, emergency EMS and fire responders were called to the park a few times during the Spring Fling event. Granville Rescue Squad crews responded to two calls, Assistant Captain Michael Zinn said. The North Granville Fire Company responded to a reported traumatic injury call after at least two people were struck by a vehicle at the park.
“A truck slid into a jeep, and a lady and her boyfriend or husband was standing by her door, and it hit them,” Jameson said.
Mudboggers and spectators traveled to the park on County Route 12 at the Whitehall-Granville border from all over the Northeast.
“There were license plates from all over,” Jameson said.
One mudbogger, Tanner Kline, said he traveled an hour and a half from Springfield, Vermont test his jeep out in the mud.
“I go to a lot of different events around the area, but never to one that’s like a free-for-all like this. I love it,” he said.
Jaime Lee and Kim Carter, of Poultney, traveled to the park Sunday morning to check out the excitement.
The pair, who attended solely as spectators, parked their lawn chairs on a hill near the snack shack, which overlooked one of the “wettest” mud pits.
“I like the big trucks … and the obstacles as well,” said Lee, who attended an event at the park a few years ago. “I’m an environmentalist too, so I like the fact that this gives everybody a spot to come and play and have a great time … and not wreck the rest of the world.”
The two saw an advertisement for the Spring Fling event.
“It looked like fun,” Lee said.
This was Carter’s first time visiting the event.
“I like car racing and stuff, so there’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion,” Carter said. “I just love everybody’s enthusiasm.”
Lee added: “I love the teamwork. When people get stuck, pretty quickly they get help.”
Before trekking through the mud Sunday, the pair enjoyed what they called a “delicious” breakfast at Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House, which is just up the road from the park.
“It was good,” Carter said of her first breakfast at Rathbun’s.