Park Owners Look Forward to ARVC Conference

October 24, 2011 by · Comments Off on Park Owners Look Forward to ARVC Conference 

Overview of the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa and the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center in Savannah, Ga., site of next month's ARVC Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo.

Things haven’t been going that well the past couple of years for Lee and Mike Weliczka of Aqua Vista Campground in Petersburg, N.Y.

Last year, a freak windstorm uprooted and demolished 150 trees and totaled several trailers and 12 cars at their upstate New York campground.

This year, Hurricane Irene flooded 71 of their 156 campsites, and literally washed 20 of their campsites into the Little Hoosick River.

“Some people who have been camping with us for 25 years lost everything,” Lee Weliczka said in a news release, adding that the succession of disasters has taken place on top of a slow economy and just as the couple is starting to raise a family.

“This has been a very stressful period,” Weliczka said, adding that she and her husband are hoping to regain their enthusiasm for the campground business when they meet with other park operators at Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo in Savannah, Ga.

While the Weliczkas have been members of ARVC for many years, they have never attended the annual conference and expo, largely because they’ve been too busy or haven’t seen the need. This time, it’s a different story.

“We’re really hoping for the conference to help us get reinspired about the campground business and to get suggestions from other people about the things they have done,” Weliczka said. “We need to be reinspired and to reignite our passion for the industry.”

The Weliczkas, in short, see the conference providing not only campground specific education they cannot easily obtain anywhere else, but opportunities to build networking and support networks from other park operators in New York and across the country.

The Weliczkas are among the 10 campground owners who received scholarships from the ARVC Foundation to attend this year’s Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, which takes place Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa and the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.

The Conference and Expo will feature 43 educational seminars, more than twice the number of any previous ARVC conference, and will cover widely diverse topics ranging from the latest trends in park and employee management to marketing through social and mainstream media, Google analytics, risk management and prevention, employment and cyber liability issues, as well as electric car charging and other green opportunities for campgrounds. It will also feature the campground industry’s largest tradeshow, with vendors showcasing the latest products and services for park operators across the country.

But beyond the education and tradeshow, Lee Weliczka is eager to simply speak with other park operators in a national forum.

“I find I learn by talking to other people,” she said. “I want to learn about the new things coming out and learn how people do things.”

Weliczka said she is also eager to learn how other families run their parks, and balance their business with their personal lives.

For more information about this year’s Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo, visit

Survivors Survey Storm’s Mark on New York Campground

July 20, 2010 by · Comments Off on Survivors Survey Storm’s Mark on New York Campground 

Click here to watch a video on the following story.

As a storm whipped through central New York Saturday night (July 17), it saved its most intense damage for the Aqua Vista Campground near Petersburgh, which was ravaged by high winds and falling trees, the Troy Record reported.

“It started (with) lightning and thunder and the rains came, and then within a minute, hail came on like gangbusters,” recalled Mike Weliczka, who’s owned Aqua Vista for the past 14 years. “There wasn’t much warning.”

Raymond G. O’Keefe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said that 80 mph straight-line winds were the culprit for the bulk of the damage. The possibility that it was a tornado was ruled out.

The storm began just after 9 p.m. on Saturday, and lasted for about 10 minutes, Weliczka said.

“The hail was so loud you couldn’t hear the trees coming down,” Weliczka said. “So when it subsided a little, people opened their doors and there were trees down everywhere.”

About 100 trees were either knocked down or damaged, he said, and the wind threw them into 30 trailers and a dozen cars.

One unlucky Hyundai Santa Fe that sat near Aqua Vista’s entrance Monday afternoon was the perfect example of the force of Saturday’s storm. The car’s roof was caved in, its side mirrors were hanging on by a thread and the windshield was buckled, its shattered pattern resembling an intricate spider’s web.

Some popup campers were flipped on their sides during the storm, Weliczka said, and other trailers were lifted off their concrete blocks and shifted off their foundations. Some trailers lost roofs and awnings, the tiles blown off in the melee. One still had a tree trunk nestled into its top — the owner’s insurance company wants to come down and survey the damage themselves, Weliczka said.

He added that he had just had 70 trees taken down in May, and pruned 20 more, in order to prevent storms like Saturday’s from knocking them down.

“Had we not, I’m tempted to say there would have been a lot more damage,” he said.

Despite the scope of the destruction, no one was hurt on Saturday. About 80 families were staying at the campground at the time, and when the storm passed, campers came down, along with the Petersburgh Fire Department, to run chain saws and try to clear some of the felled trees.

More help came on Sunday, from other campers and neighbors up the street on Armsby Road. Weliczka hopes to have the campground back to normal by this weekend, he said.

One of Aqua Vista’s long-time campers, Dave Merrills, is assisting with the cleanup efforts, and was working on clearing brush around a camper on Monday afternoon.

Like Weliczka, Merrills marveled at the swiftness of Saturday’s storm, the inch-and-a-half of hail, how trees had their tops blown clean off.

“The wind came out of nowhere. I never seen anything like it,” he said. “We had no power, so we got the flashlights out, and it was just destroyed down there.”

Merrills also described how tree limbs flew through the air, the nearby river acting as a receptacle for most of the branches.

“The tree that hit that camper right here,” he said, pointing to the trailer next door, “it’s gone. It’s in the river.”

Merrills raised his children at the campground, he said. Now, more than 20 years later, he brings his grandson to Aqua Vista. Helping Weliczka is his way of giving back to the place that has meant so much to his family, and a testament to the kinship that has come to define the campground.

“It’s a nice community,” Merrills said. “Everybody sticks together and helps everybody. You let your kids run around. It’s nice how everybody helped out.”

Fierce Storm Terrorizes New York Campground

July 19, 2010 by · Comments Off on Fierce Storm Terrorizes New York Campground 

Click here to watch WTEN-TV’s telecast of the following story.

A powerful storm early Sunday (July 18) devastated a campground near Albany, N.Y.

WTEN-TV- Albany, reported large tree trunks snapped in half and splintered like matchsticks at the Aqua Vista Campground .

The National Weather Service has not yet confirmed any tornadoes in the area. Those who lived through the night of wild weather say the storms were the strongest they have ever seen.

“Me, my mom and our dog were all stuck in the popup when the tree fell on it,” Courtney Carter said. “We screamed for my dad and then he came and saved us.”

At last count more than 100 trees were down across the campground and the cleanup well underway, cutting up tree trunks and hauling away other branches. The helping hands doing more than just clearing the debris the storm left behind.