Albertan Creates 'Eco-Village' RV Park
If Dale and Virginia Eklund needed to saturate the market with an advertising slogan, it would be "From Pasture to Paradise."
According to the Edmonton (Alberta) Journal, the Eklunds' unusual idea for a seasonal RV park catering strictly to folks over 50 came to him a decade ago as he considered ways to supplement his retirement income down the line. He got started by planting rows of trees, which now form a natural corridor that attracts new species of birds and wildlife.
"We've noticed more wildlife coming. I now see flocks of Hungarian partridges in the park, deer are moving through because of the corridor of trees.
"You can see the hawks soaring in thermals above the park overlooking the valley because I seeded that with native grasses, and of course, there are mice and voles, and the hawks are looking for their dinner.
"This is where ecology comes in. Man and animal can co-exist if you do it right."
They have received a habitat award from Alberta Fish and Game Association
The Eklunds own a 38-acre property about 50 miles southeast of Edmonton. Dale describes the land as "marginally productive." With what he figures has been a $200,000 development budget, Dale has set aside eight acres so far, installing 30- and 50-amp electrical outlets, and a sewage and water system that will service the first residents of what the Eklunds are calling an "eco-village."
"Traditionally, RV parks are designed on the principle of providing minimum space for maximum return," Dale says.
"When I look at some of the parks, I just have to smile. (In the average park), people are so close together, you can spit and hit the next guy."
Dale's vision is different.
"The Sanctuary was designed on the principles of spaciousness, tranquility and privacy," he says.
Each occupant will enjoy a half acre of land in a setting near a mile-long pond known in the area as Gibbons Lake.
The whole 38 acres of essentially pasture land has been rezoned from agricultural to upland recreational. The Sanctuary's first 15 lots will open next May 1 and will be available to seasonal residents until Sept. 30. They will be able to park their RVs on the property for free over the winter. One couple has already moved their unit in.
From just a couple of ads in local papers, Dale has already filled all but one of the 14 phase-one lots. He's keeping one open for occasional weekend users for the time being.
"People are actually purchasing trailers of a certain length to move in here. They come here, see the spot and go buy the trailer.
"I was quite overwhelmed. The response the first few days was so phenomenal I actually had to start setting up appointments because I had so many people coming. I knew it would go, but not to this extent."
Sanctuary residents will pay $1,700 for the five months, and will have to provide their own shower and laundry facilities. Most will also cut their own lawns, although Dale has told one couple in their 80s he'll cut their lawn for them.
Children will be allowed to visit on weekends only.
Because of the older demographic, he's not expecting the need for much supervision. He'll be around to resolve technical issues.
Dale says when he approached the County of Wetaskiwin 10 years ago, they were very receptive to his novel concept.
"The County of Wetaskiwin has been very supportive of this transition. I think they recognize the Sanctuary fills a need for the elder population to have their own little piece of paradise."
Dale turns 65 next year. He doesn't know how much longer he'll keep his job as a psychiatric nurse in the brain injury unit at an Alberta hospital.
The Eklunds live on their two-acre property adjacent to the Sanctuary, and after a year of assessing how the first phase of his niche RV park works, Dale expects he'll add more lots. He's licensed for 40 spaces; he sees the Sanctuary growing to at least 30. The more spaces he provides, the more financially advantageous his retirement venture will be tax-wise, but he's not expecting to get rich from the project.