So you want to own a campground?
Swell. But perhaps you should consider consulting a psychiatrist instead.
Somewhere in this great country of ours is a man or woman, or better yet both, who feel strongly that owning or operating a campground is the way to an easy fortune. In all fairness to these folks, who obviously have camped twice and done little research, I offer the following givens, assumptions, truths, (and half-truths) from the pen of a man who embarked on the American dream a dozen years ago, with brave and naive partner.
Take everything you have; sink it, along with your blood, sweat, and tears into a piece of earth and all America will help you create a lifelong dream. Specifically the vision consists of an endless stream of citizens, using the same ground over and over until
(1) It (the ground) is paid for.
(2) The electric wire is paid for. (And is up to code)
(3) The sewers are paid for. (and guests do not flush tennis balls down unpluggable toilets)
(4) The table is paid for.
(5) The fireplace is paid for.
(6) The water hookups are paid for. (In the state of Michigan, every November, campground owners pay what is akin to a water tax…and how much it is depends on how many sites you have. THAT started maybe 10 years ago!)
(7) The toilets are paid for. (Could be changed to reflect environmentally conscious toilets)
(8) The showers are paid for. (Commercial grade water saver shower heads probably cost close to what a shower cost in the ‘80s!)
(9) The playground is paid for. (Make sure you’ve got at least 18” of sand so ya don’t get sued if Suzie falls off the swing!)
(10) The mower is paid for. (Hey, you know all about our Green Machine!)
(11) The ice machine is paid for.
(12) The jeep or tractor is paid for.
(13) You have $10,000 set aside for all of the above, which constantly don't work or wear out. (This is one of those things that could be changed; $10,000 X about 5!)
When all the above is completed and your body is old and weak, the Department of Environmental Resources will tell you that they haven't got the money to spray for the gypsy moth anymore but if you don't spray at your own expense, they'll close down your operation. So before you leap let me offer you these thoughts:
All campers in tents are not poor.
All campers in Large RV's are not rich.
There is a strong correlation between a camping family and at least one pet dog.
Not all people who camp simply "love it” (camping).
There is a strong correlation between campers and chubbiness.
It is very possible that a camper owning a $10,000 RV will argue with you over a quarter. (More like $100K rig now days!)
All visitors to your campground will not seek you out to pay their guest fee.
Many campers who frown on those who openly consume alcohol get pretty pie-eyed inside their trailer. (Or slip on the bathroom floor and try to blame you..broken beer bottle on floor beside them)
Keeping every camper happy is akin to killing every mosquito with a pair of tweezers.
Campers tend to be more conservative with Their LP-gas than with your electricity.
Some campers who never miss church are not above sneaking electric heaters into their units.
Some campers will drive 10 miles to buy a can of beans because your beans were three cents more.
Most campers assume campground owners are independently wealthy.
Campers agree that everyone's dog should be tied up except their own.
If the wife and kids like your campground you have a good shot at the family's return business. Fathers don't seem to matter.
If first-time campers spend a weekend in constant rain it's 15 to one against you (or any other owner) ever seeing them again.
Parents of kids who cause problems will tell you that you're wrong and the kids are right.
Campers truly believe that three successive days of rain are your fault.
If a complainer is Catholic he'll tell you that you favor Protestants. If he is Protestant you'll be accused of being special to the Irish and Italians. If the camper is Jewish he probably won't be camping.
If your bed is near the game room, Pac Man and the juke box make resting impossible.
Sewers always overflow on Sunday (usually at lunch time).
Many campers want what they want when they want it (usually when you're in the shower).
There is a strong correlation between campers and poor reading ability; you write the rules they apparently can't read.
Campers all seem to have faulty speedometers. Your sign says 5 mph, their speedometer says 30 mph.
Permanent campers must occasionally be reminded that "rental" of a space doesn't mean ownership of the entire campground.
Permanent campers also know far more about "what's going on" than you ever will.
Campers love activities that you provide at your expense but only attend the ones that suit them and complain about the others!
You can scrub toilets daily for 47 days and the one rainy Sunday you miss the inspector will appear.
Families of seven shrink drastically if your rates are for four.
It is often difficult to out think 1000 or more adversaries.
To some, quiet hour means "Let's see if he'll throw us out. After all, we paid for four and there are 16 of us."
To others, a holiday means "Well, no rules tonight! We won't be back anyways!"
If you ever reach the point where an infraction is rationalized by saying "Mr Owner said so," then you have arrived!
If the mere sight of your vehicle (jeep, truck, golf cart or unicycle) sends them scurrying into their RV you have arrived!
If you don't get your fee "up front," your last view may be that of a "disappearing Nomad!"
In all sincerity and with no tongue in cheek, measure every move by the kids in your campground. If they obviously like you, respect you and are just a little in awe of you, this means good things are being said around the campground. If the kids seem to indicate you don't exist, quit, collect as long as you can and become a handyman. You'll possess all the tools!
I'd like to offer one more important consideration to you budding campground owners. Your best training is to have dealt in some way with large numbers of adolescents (age 12, 13, and 14). After these unbearable ages I have learned that the human body only gets larger and fatter. The intelligence, the emotions, the jealousies and the greed stay about the same or increase. (So does the sex drive but fortunately the body won't respond) As long as you can make each one believe he is special, even if you grit your teeth a lot and create new bad words under your breath, you will be successful. Just don't ever let them realize they're just the same as anyone else or you’re in trouble.
All of the above is written in good humor from experience to make you think and smile. By and large, real campers are the most honest, caring, warm and sharing, unobtrusive, thoughtful people in the world. I'm still in debt but the goodies I've met outweigh the baddies 50 to 1 and if I had it to do over again even at age 48 instead of 36, you couldn't stop me!
In 12 years we have grossed over a million dollars and we've only spent a million and a half. Why stop now?
Written by; Arnie Garinger"So you want to own a Campground"was Published byMOTORHOME MagazineMay 1983