Ashley: Amusement Park Benefits Nearby RV Park
Bob Ashley is a veteran newspaper writer based in central Indiana who specializes in coverage of the RV and campground industries.
Timberland Lake Campground in the central New Jersey community of Jackson escaped the worst of Tropical Storm Irene as it swept up the East Coast in late August. Still, the 218-site park on 54 acres was without electricity for four days and its Labor Day occupancy was hit hard.
"It impacted a lot of our campers who live 45 minutes or an hour away," said employee Dolly Buchko. "We had a lot of cancellations and we lost some roads around us. But they were repaired pretty quickly so we actually made out pretty good. It could have been worse."
In fact, the park was only three-quarters full over the Labor Day Weekend when typically it would have been full aided by the nearby Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park.
Buchko said the park's clientele has changed since Ken Henick purchased it in 2006.
"Every year it's been improving," she said, adding that the nearby amusement park has begun to emphasize family entertainment, which benefits the campground that markets itself to the family oriented RVer.
Still, fewer New Yorkers spend the night these days at the campground when they visit Six Flags, she said. "Most of the people who visit the park and stay overnight are from Connecticut and Massachusetts," she said. "People from New York used to spend the weekend, but they don't do that anymore. It's the economy, I'm guessing."
Heavily wooded with some 300 trees, the park has a five-acre lake that is available for boating and fishing.
"We're a little secret back here," Buchko said.
A 27-hole golf course came first and 21 years later came the campground at Brickyard Plantation Golf Club & RV Park in Americus, Ga.
"Our main attraction is the golf in the winter months when the Northerners come down," said Debra Sykes, owner of the 48-site park and golf course with her husband, Charles. "The largest percentage of our business comes from Michigan."
The couple bought the park in 2005 from her father, Billy Clark, who opened the golf course in 1979 and added 12 RV sites in 2000.
Since buying the property, the couple has added 36 RV sites and intends to grow to 75 to 100 sites in the next five or six years.
Sykes said that business this year has been down slightly, perhaps because of the economy, but also probably because of the summer weather.
"I've lived her all my life and this is the hottest summer I can remember," she said. "Our summer business saw just a small decrease, but our winter months are looking normal or better than normal with the reservations we've gotten."
Americus' most notable neighbor is former President Jimmy Carter who still lives in nearby Plains. "Years ago when we first opened, he came out and played golf a couple of times, but he's not a golfer," Sykes said.
To kick off the fall season, the park was sponsoring the inaugural Brickyard Bluegrass Festival Oct. 14.
Occupancy during the summer season dipped at the 146-site RV Ranch at Grand Junction in Clifton, Colo.
"The season was slower than it has been in the last eight years," said RV Ranch manager Pauline Youngblood.
Back then, she said, the park benefited from oil and natural gas companies exploring the area whose workers stayed in RVs at the park.
"Regulations in Colorado got so restrictive that they just pulled up stakes a couple of years ago and left," Youngblood said. "They found what they were looking for, but there are too many regulations for them to be able to get it out of the ground."
On the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, RV Ranch also has seen a drop in local RVers, the "regular RVers," she said.
“It's come down to we're seeing people going from point to point and we're kind of in-between," Youngblood reported.
She said a local wine festival used to draw RVers to the area, but that also has changed. "Three years ago, I didn't have enough sites for everybody," Youngblood said. "This year, I'm not even going to be full. RVers just aren't out there like they used to be."
Entering the fall, Youngblood said, the park, which is open year-round, will get some business from hunters. "But we don't even have as many hunters as we used to have," she said.
On the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains in north-central Oregon, evidence that the salmon were running in the Columbia River in mid-September was evident.
"The wife of one of my people caught a 40-pound chinook yesterday," said Randy Lamb, manager of 58-site Rufus RV Park in Rufus, Ore. "She was about as thrilled as she could be."
Located at only 250 feet elevation in the Columbia Gorge, Rufus RV Park is a fisherman's haven, Lamb said.
"Right now chinook, steelhead and coho are around, but it's also been an outstanding season for walleye, bass and catfish," Lamb reported.
Occupancy at the semi-rustic park – its facilities basically include a Laundromat and showers – was strong during the summer.
"Business has been pretty good up until the last month and then it trailed off some," Lamb said. "I did notice during the season that our overnight business was a little bit lighter this year. I attribute that to the economy. We draw a lot of fishermen and there's a lot of power-industry work in the area right now – windmills and power lines mostly."
Lamb said the park expected a boost in late September when a local winery was to hold a festival featuring Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald of Steely Dan fame.
Locally, Rufus RV Park's main distinction is that it has the only Laundromat in the county, "But it's a small county," Lamb noted, laughing.
Ted and Deb Festa have been planning to put in a large swimming pool to go along with the sandy beach at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park at Pine Lakes in Pittsfield, Ill., since they bought the 160-site park five years ago.
"We are in the construction phase of the pool and it will be open next year," Deb Festa said. Also being added is a recreation center that will include a snack bar, arcade, laundry room and meeting facility.
The park – formerly Pine Lake Family Camping Resort – became a Jellystone franchise earlier this year.
"We've always had a strong activity program, but we stepped it up now that we are a franchise," she said.
Already featuring six rustic and six two-bedroom cabins, the Festas intend to add other camping cabins in the not-too-distant future.
She said since becoming a Jellystone park, there's been definite increase in RVing families.
"Business this year was good, despite the economy and we hope for new business next year, now that we've added the pool," she said. "Bringing in Yogi Bear and his friends has definitely helped provide the increase in business."