Reserving camping sites is handled online, but Bobbie Tutor still likes to meet people face-to-face, and know who’s staying in the campground.
“People connect differently when they see each other and shake hands,” said Tutor, who has taken care of the grounds at Howard Stafford Park for 18 years. Camping, fishing, boating, volleyball, playgrounds, a splash pad, the park has it all.
Tutor, whose husband Joe passed away five years ago, rumbled across the grounds on her John Deere Gator, waving to campers and fishermen, a bag for collecting stray trash in the back, along with a sack of ant-killer and a short-handle shovel.
“This is a family place, peaceful, lots to do, good, healthy outdoors recreation,” said Tutor, who lived in Randolph before she and her husband started managing the park. She stopped the Gator outside “the cabin,” a 700-square-foot rental that sits atop a hill overlooking the lake.
Tutor shielded her eyes from the sun, and looked out at folks fishing from the pier.
Eight-year-old Naomi Sypolt cast her reel, and just couldn’t wait for the cork to go under. She reeled it in and started over.
“I’m going to catch one,” Naomi said. “I’m pretty good at fishing.”
Naomi’s granddaddy, Tommy Miller, smiled and watched.
“This used to be a sandy beach, and there was a snack bar over there, and we all had a big time,” said Miller. “Today you can still bring your kids out here and you don’t have to worry about their safety. It’s clean, everything is picked-up. It’s a good place for families.”
The lake at Stafford Park covers 65 acres. Add to that 15 acres of camp grounds, including 18 slots. Each has 30-amp and 50-amp electrical hookups, as well as sewage, water, and trash pick-up. Slots are $17.50 per-night, and during peak season, April until November, campers can stay as long as 30 days. Folks 16 and younger, or 65 and older, fish for free. Everybody else needs a license, which costs a whole $15 for a year.
Reserve America is the online site through which campers reserve their slots. It’s precise and convenient, but it’s not perfect, Tutor said.
“It’s good for scheduling and we don’t keep money onsite, but I always like to meet people, to see their faces and know who’s staying here,” Tutor said. She steered the Gator off the sidewalk and across the roots and grass that flanked the playground, waving to visitors.
The park has three pavilions. The largest accommodates 24 tables, with six diners each, and rents for $60.
The lake gurgles with catfish, bream, and crappie.
“We have people come from all over to fish this lake and camp here,” said Tutor.
Pontotoc Mayor Bob Peeples said the park contributes to the quality of life in Pontotoc County and its environs.
“It’s great having a lake and park for families to enjoy,” said Peeples. “Whether fishing, camping, or having a family get-together, Stafford lake and park are wonderful assets for the residents and visitors to Pontotoc.”
Tutor locks the gates at night, so no riffraff get in. She gives campers a key.
“I’m proud of this park,” said Tutor. “Pontotoc is a great place to live. We hold to traditional values. We’ve had people from Paris, and London, even Australia stay here. Folks that camp are some of the nicest people in the world. They’re a community. We want kids to leave drugs and alcohol alone, and enjoy fishing and volleyball and all the good things we have to offer.”