Retired Writer Transforms Kansas Campground

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July 14, 2010 by   - () Comments Off on Retired Writer Transforms Kansas Campground

Mary Arlington, owner of High Plains Camping, Oakley, Kan.

When Mary Arlington and her late husband, John, bought High Plains Camping in Oakley, Kan., eight years ago, the park was run down, with some buildings literally falling apart.

“There was a barn on the property and it leaned to one side,” Arlington recalled. “You could literally watch the sunset through the holes in the roof.”

The park also had a reputation of having access to illegal drugs. “Nobody told us about this until we closed the property purchase deal,” Arlington said in a news release.

But with years of TLC and about $350,000 worth of improvements, Arlington has transformed the park into a thriving business that provides welcome respite for RVers heading east or west on Interstate 70 or vacationers and snowbirds heading to or from the Canada and other northern states along U.S. 83.

The improvements include reconstruction of that leaning barn for a recreation hall, gutting and rebuilding of the laundry room, creation of a campground office and store, remodeling bathrooms and showers, adding roads and redesigning campsites. The pull-through sites with 30 and 50 amp electrical service accommodate big rigs and people traveling with boats or cars in tow. Other improvements include the addition of three hot tubs for people who want to relax, a dog run, and a Cool-Down Spray Zone for hot summer days, and the seasonal U-Pick Organic Garden.

.“We provide peaceful serenity, a place where people can get out of their car and walk down a quiet country road,” Arlington said. Other park amenities include a horseshoe pit and a challenging 18-hole miniature golf course.

And given its remote location half way between Kansas City and Denver, Arlington said High Plains Camping is a great place for stargazing and for photographers who want to capture a beautiful sunrise or sunset in the heart of America.

Managing a campground and marketing travel in Kansas is a big change for Arlington, who bought High Plains Camping in 2002 after retiring from a career as a technical writer.

She and her late husband, John, bought the park while they were traveling across the country. They had already sold their home and made a decision to purchase a campground, but they didn’t know where it would be. “We just knew we wanted to buy a small park,” she said.

But when they spent the night at High Plains Camping, even in its unrefined form, they knew it offered the kind of place they wanted to provide to their guests. And it turned out the park was for sale. “We wanted to offer more than a place to sleep,” Arlington said. “We wanted to be part of their journey, to rejuvenate their spirits before getting them back on the road.”

Arlington also tells her guests about many things to see and do in Kansas so that they don’t simply rush through the state on their way to another destination. “If they know what there is to do here, maybe they’ll stay another night or two,” she said.

“Every day of your journey should be enjoyable, not just the days at your destination,” Arlington says, adding that she often directs travelers to Abilene, the boyhood home of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and site of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. The town also has several mansions and fine restaurants. Another town, Salina, is known for its Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, a zoo and wildlife museum.

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