The economy may be mired in recession, but that hasn’t stopped private campground owners in California from investing in new campsites, cabins and other upgrades for the upcoming camping season.
“Campground and RV park operators know that the recession is temporary that it behooves them to continue making improvements to their parks so that they can compete with other travel and tourism options,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
As a result, she said, many private park operators are investing in new facilities and amenities this year, which include everything from new campsites and cabins to hot tubs and swimming pools. Consider these examples:
Auburn Gold Country RV Park in Auburn: This property, which includes 66 RV sites, 20 tent sites, two cabins and a camp office and store, is getting a $300,000 facelift, which will include upgrading many of its campsites with 50 amp electrical and Wi-Fi service, remodeling the park’s bathrooms, resurfacing its streets with asphalt, new roofs, remodeling the office, store and TV lounge, replacing all pool and spa equipment and trimming some 115 trees on the property.
Bakersfield Palms RV Park: This park recently completed a $1 million expansion and plans to open a new 20-site section for overnight travelers in May. The new section has premium campsites that are 25 feet wide and 75 feet long. The new sites have 50 amp electrical pedestals as well as telephone, cable TV and Wi-Fi service. The existing section of the park has 112 sites.
Campland on the Bay in San Diego: This RV resort, located near Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, is spending up to $50,000 this year on a skate park, which is expected to open before Memorial Day Weekend. The park is also spending $100,000 on other infrastructure improvements, including a leash free dog park.
Far Horizons 49’er Village RV Resort in Plymouth: This 329-site park, which also has 13 park model rentals, is planning to spend about $200,000 in improvements this year, mostly involving the park’s swimming pool complex.
Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton: This RV resort, located near the Dutch-themed town of Solvang, has budgeted $550,000 for improvements this year, including three park model cabin rental units, a fitness center, electrical and sewer service upgrades, renovation of campsites, cable television system upgrades and new landscaping.
Frandy Park Campground in Kernville: This park, which has 18 campsites on the Kern River and 60 sites off the river, just installed new asphalt at the entrance to the park. The park is also making landscaping improvements and is installing a new dump tank. The total investment in improvements is expected to be close to $70,000.
Kamp Klamath RV Park and Campground in Klamath: This 33-acre park, which is located in Big Foot country with one quarter mile of frontage along the Klamath River, plans to spend more than $30,000 in improvements this year, which will include construction of 26 new tent sites and three more RV sites. The park is also opening a restaurant called the Bigfoot Grill and Tavern, which will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, the park is planting 3,500 flowers, shrubs, ground covers, natural herbs and decorative vegetables. All of the improvements are being done by staff and workampers. The park is surrounded by Redwood National Park.
Pismo Coast Village RV Resort in Pismo Beach: This park is investing more than $700,000 in improvements this year, including the renovation of 51 campsites, which will be upgraded to 50 amp electrical service; the renovation of the swimming and wading pools, road paving and other electrical upgrades. The park is also planning to continue its improvement effort next year and develop another 20-acre site for RV storage.
Premier RV Resorts in Redding: This park, which has 84 RV sites, 12 tent sites and two yurts, is planning to do a 21-site expansion this year. Other improvements include a new hot tub and a fenced dog run area. These improvements are expected to cost about $500,000.
Rancho Los Coches RV Park in Lakeside: This park has invested more than $30,000 in a variety of improvements this year, including renovations to its swimming pool and hot tub and new pool furniture. The park has also built a fitness room and made landscaping improvements with new flowers, shade trees and palm trees, including two Taiwanese King Kong Palms.
San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA: This park is investing about $200,000 in improvements this year, which include finishing up a 4,000-square foot dog park and remodeling the camp store. The park has also expanded its lodging with the purchase of six park model cabins last year. The park has 312 sites, including 34 cabins and a total of 10 park models.
SunLand RV Resorts: This La Jolla-based chain, which has six parks in Riverside and San Diego counties, is upgrading its Wi-Fi system capabilities this year. SunLand’s parks include Golden Village Palms in Hemet, San Diego RV Resort in La Mesa, Escondido RV Resort in Escondido as well as three parks in El Cajon, including Oak Creek RV Resort, Circle RV Resort and Vacationer RV Resort.
Sunrise Highway RV Park in Mt. Laguna: This 25-site park, located half way between Lake Cuyamaca and Julian, plans to spend $25,000 to $50,000 this year on a variety of improvements, including installation of a solar heating system for the park’s swimming pool. Between 2005 and 2007, the park spent more than $300,000 renovating and restoring a log cabin camping lodge, which was originally built in 1950. The lodge has six bedrooms, which can be rented separately or as a group for family vacations.The push by private RV park and campground operators to improve their facilities has been going on for many years. In fact, three quarters of private park owners made an average of $147,508 in improvements to their parks in 2007, according to the National Operations & Economic Survey of RV Parks & Campgrounds, which was sponsored by the ARVC Foundation and conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Of course, not every park is spending money in facility or amenity improvements right now. Some, in fact, have not been able to move forward with their expansion or improvement plans because of difficulties obtaining loans. But that’s doesn’t always stop them.
The Jellystone Park in Cobb, Calif., north of Napa Valley, was planning to spend half a million dollars on a miniature golf course when its lender stopped issuing loans after the golf course was 75 percent completed. But that didn’t stop park owner Brian Barnhart. He negotiated a deal with the golf course builder that allowed him to finish the golf course himself.
“This is looking like it’s going to be a very good year for our campground business,” Barnhart said, adding, “I think we’re going to do a lot better than last year.”
Listings of private campgrounds, online reservation requests and other camping-related information is available at www.camp-california.com and www.GoCampingAmerica.com