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There are almost an endless number of things to consider if you are contemplating building your own RV park. Everything from the location of your park, to its size, local zoning ordinances, what kind of amenities you wish to include and of course cost is certainly a major concern as well. In this article, we’ll look at some of those concerns and whether building and designing your own campground is a good idea, or whether it will be huge expenditure with little or no profitability.
How much land is necessary to build a campground?
The amount of land you need to build your own campground is related to the number of sites that you have included in your design. As a rule, in a one-acre plot of property that is flat with little obstacles such as trees or water, you should be able to include 10 sites, which would include the drives between those camp sites.
However, you also need to consider the amount of area needed for guest amenities. For example, are you planning on having a guest swimming pool or hot tub? A camp store or restroom facilities with shower and laundry facilities? These are all factors to consider when designing your own campground as they are decisions that make a huge impact upon on profitability.
By this, I mean that the more property you tie up with amenities, the less camping sites you’ll have to rent out and this ultimately will affect your bottom line. Apart from your laundry facility and (maybe) your camp store, there’s no extra money being generated that would pay for the continuing revenue that the loss of 3-5 sites would have brought in.
In other words, you’ll need to carefully consider the concept of your RV park design. The number of sites and the amount of area to accommodate them with or without amenities will directly impact your revenue.
Your campground location
Simply put, your campground should be designed for one of three locations. It could be a part of a destination location, or it could be located within a reasonable distance from a major thoroughfare to a destination location, and it could be a destination location by its own design. Of those three, the latter is probably the hardest to achieve because it usually entails a great deal of amenities for your guest to enjoy and a lot of costly marketing campaigns.
For that reason, I’m going to focus on the other two real estate options. When your campground is located near a popular tourist location such as Yellowstone National Park, Mackinac Island, Michigan or many of the numerous amusement parks and attractions throughout the country, your RV park becomes a stopping off point to park your rig while you explore the surrounding area and its attractions. As such, It should be attractive to RVers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to add so many amenities to make it unprofitable to your venture as your park is not what they came to visit. As a rule, they’re not looking to spend hours in your pool, hot tub, or campground store. Instead, they’re more likely to spend much less time in your campground and much more time at the attraction they came to see in the first place.
Many campgrounds are built to accommodate the traveler for short stays, and they are often located next to or a short distance away from a major highway. The purpose of these campgrounds is for people who are traveling to destination locations to be able to jump off the highway, set up camp for a day or two and then get right back on the road. Usually these types of RV parks offer limited amenities, while some others such as KOAs offer this convenience with a lot more amenities.
However, one thing to carefully consider when choosing a location for your new campground is how it will be received by the local community. Local zoning laws should be checked, your state’s natural resources department should be consulted, and you should even expect to encounter resistance from residents and neighbors.
What makes a campground memorable and a place RVers want to revisit?
Several factors can make your stay at an RV park a pleasant experience or one you would rather forget and these are the things you should look at when contemplating whether you want to build your own campground. Basic hook-ups such as water and electric with plug-ins for 50-amp, 30-amp, 15-amp or 110/120-volts. While this can become a bit of a wiring nightmare, many campgrounds offer different sites with varied amperage outlets. Quite often they design the outlets with the size of the site in mind and the size of the RV it can accommodate as well. I’ll share more about that later. In the meantime, here are some of the things I look for when staying at a campground.
Clean restrooms and shower facilities
One of the first things I do when I visit a new campground is to look at their bathroom and shower facilities. Are they clean? Are they well stocked with paper hand towels and soap? Are the toilet paper dispensers full?
While I travel in a 5th wheel that has its own shower and restroom, I sometimes prefer to use the shower facilities at campgrounds I visit. Why? Because they are far roomier than my bathroom and they usually offer me a chance to bath more than 6-7 minutes before I drain my hot water supply. Simply put, having clean heated restrooms, an ample supply of hot water and an opportunity to shower longer than I could in my own rig is important to me. Additionally, this helps to keep my gray and black water tanks from filling up faster.
Less pavement and more green space
Too often, I have found campgrounds that make me feel as if I’m staying in a parking lot. For example, the Grand Haven State Park, located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and the mouth of the Grand River in Grand Haven, Michigan is a good example.
As you can see in this aerial view of the park, RV parking is located on the north end of the facility. RVs are packed in there like sardines, and the drives have to be one-way because it’s too narrow for two-way traffic and this makes it extremely difficult to back your rig into your assigned site and remove it as well.
While extremely popular with many RVers, it’s just not my cup of tea. Parking is tight and for the most part, your site will be located on a slab of pavement. Even with a huge natural sand beach, and a walk down its iconic piers, you’ll find it to be over crowed most of the summer season. With that said, I would still put it on your bucket list to visit at least once. It’s late season sunsets, and a chance to bag a nice salmon off its iconic piers is well worth the visit, and I highly recommend a visit after Labor Day if you’re a fisherman such as myself.
So, bottom line here: consider the surrounding landscaping.
Speaking of parking, let’s talk pull-throughs
Nothing pleases me more than discovering an RV park I am planning to stay at has pull-through camping sites. Small sites and narrow drives cause problems. As a single traveler with a 5th wheel trailer, confined camping sites are a headache for me and so is backing into them. Quite often in these situations, I have get out of my rig to check my distance from other campers or obstacles such as trees, fire pits, picnic tables or numerous other things I could back into when these objects are in my blind spots or out of my mirror’s vision.
Additionally, tight RV sites and narrow drives require pulling your motorhome forward and then backward numerous times until you have lined your rig up correctly, and as a single traveler this can be very time consuming. Sometimes, someone from the park will direct you into the site, and while I appreciate the help, I never fully trust anyone I don’t know to guide my rig and truck into a site and this always make me on edge.
And finally, narrow drives with limited maneuverability make it harder for emergency services vehicles to transit should there be a reason for them to come to the campground. Do yourself a favor, design your RV park with some pull-through sites in mind and make that part of your marketing strategy. You’ll be glad you did, as it will help build up first-time traffic to your campground as well as returning visitors.
Wi-Fi and other communications
In todays age of instant communications, suppling your guests with Wi-Fi is almost a necessity. People want to be able to instantly post to their social media, Skype with theirs friends and family, or even their doctors. Some use the internet to watch their TVs to avoid paying high cost satellite fees while others like myself, need Wi-Fi to work while their traveling.
These days, internet and cell phone connections are widely available in many locations. Unless your planned RV park is located deep in the woods in some remote location, it’s likely you’ll be able to find a company that can design an internet system that will work best for your needs. Be mindful however, that a weak Wi-Fi signal and charging an extra fee for these services is a real turn-off for most RVers, so internet access should be included with the cost of the site.
Picnic tables and fire rings are a great addition to any camp site. Most RVers enjoy sitting around a fire pit on a cool summer night and a picnic table has far more uses than just sitting down to eat at them. Children can use them to work on projects or homework if they’re being home schooled, if you’re a fisherman such as I am, they’re great for laying out your tackle or hunting gear. Their uses are numerous, and I highly recommend that you supply them with each campsite.
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Consistency on pricing
No one likes to be nickeled and dimed. The best RV parks state their site prices up front, and they stick to those prices. Charging extra fees for dogs, kids, cars, etc. frustrates most RV travelers. Tell people upfront what the bottom line is, and they will thank you for it later by returning to your facility. The best RV parks give a fair and reasonable cost for their sites with no hidden costs and they’re the ones that enjoy repeat customers. Make sure to think through your pricing strategy when you are drafting up your business plan.
While not necessarily a “must have”, I like it when RV parks have a nice designated area that is fenced in, where my dog can run off leash for a while. It’s also a plus when the park owners supply a dispenser with pet clean-up bags and a supply of water for the dogs to drink. For example, one park I stayed at out west had a small wading pool set up for the dogs to drink from.
Not my Lizzie though, it was too hot for that, so she took it upon herself to have a nice off leash romp, and a cool off session afterwards.
Friendly and professional staff
Staff is a big part of the camping experience and should be a huge priority if you want to build a successful RV park. A well informed, professional, courteous, and friendly staff will always make a huge difference and will ensure repeat guests to your park. I also recommend a small welcome bag of local goodies and maps or coupons to local attractions. People remember this kindness and it brings them back to your park.
Now that we’ve looked at where your park should be located and what you should do to make it a place for full-time RVers and weekend travelers to visit and return to, in the next article we’ll examine its cost of construction, the legalities and the insurance you’ll need to open your campground. In the meantime, thanks for following along and safe travels to you all.