Saturday, June 3, 2023


Building an RV park from scratch: We met the neighbors!

By Machelle James
The past two weeks have been a blur. We made the decision to formally introduce ourselves on a Heber-Overgaard Facebook group. I was asking so many questions, I thought it was only fair to the group to know why I was asking them: Who do we contact for a large trash bin? Who do we use for our internet provider? Where are the best places to eat?  What are the best trail rides for our side x sides?

Moving to a small town is pretty exciting. Everyone knows everyone and they offered us great advice. We have received more than 100 messages of welcome and support for our campground business.

Since we have to get our three parcels combined into one parcel due to setbacks and zoning laws, Jenna and I drove to the Navajo County Assessor’s Office to drop off the paperwork. It was funny, as the gal at the counter recognized us from our Facebook post. She was so sweet to Jenna, as she knew her story before we got there.

Then we were invited to meet the ladies at the Community Center and local Thrift Store. We went there and the lovely lady there recognized us as well and gave us a warm welcome. We were given a tour of their facility and it is really nice. They offer yoga, walking club, card playing, community lunches and tons more. I have no doubt we will join and get to know our neighbors and community better.

We have been going to the property every weekend to start working on the cabin and clean up the land. AJ demolished the interior of the cabin in one weekend. We are going to work on the flooring this weekend, as no one would want to walk barefoot on the 40-year-old parquet floors and carpet.

We also picked up so many bags of trash that we were both exhausted by the end of the day. You don’t realize how big 15 acres is until you try and clean it up. We probably only cleaned up 3 acres. It’s unfortunate how people just throw their trash out their windows as they drive by. Alcohol bottles, soda cups, dirty clothes, landscape trash – you name it, it was there.

We invested in gloves and heavy-duty trash bags. We also posted signs all over the property to let people know to keep out! No more dumping and riding reckless through the property. Since it has been vacant for a year, people think it’s a place to run free. Not anymore! We live there part time in our 5th wheel while we clean and fix up the cabin and land.

We also had a planned meeting with the Fire Chief and his staff last week. They wanted a preliminary drawing of what we were thinking of building on the property, as well as everyone meet us and Jenna. It is always a good feeling when the town recognizes Jenna in case she gets lost or she runs off. We are trying to get her face out there in case of an emergency.  She is a social butterfly most days and is looking for her “pokémon people.” But that is definitely on her terms.

We met the neighbor behind us and it didn’t go too well. He is an older man with two dogs. Jenna was having an anxiety attack and yelled at his dogs and at the man. I was so embarrassed! Our first introduction was her in full meltdown mode. She has an uncontrollable fear of dogs and we do not know how to help her with it. We have tried everything we could think of and, nope, she refuses to listen or participate.

So not only did our neighbor see the fearful Jenna, I also told him what we were doing with our land. I could see him thinking, digesting what I was telling him about our RV campground.  I asked him to think about it and write down his questions or concerns and we can talk about it next weekend.

We do want to be good neighbors and want to work them. It is a huge change as most of that land has been vacant since 1977. Just the cabin has been on that land and you can’t even see it.

This weekend, our goal is to meet the rest of the neighbors and let them know what we are going to be building on the land. I know one neighbor has goats and horses and I would love to partner with them when we open. We met the local band via online and they want to play at our Grand Opening. I am so thankful at how this dream of ours is falling into place.

I do believe we have found our own little piece of paradise in Heber-Overgaard: the small town, the tall trees and the welcoming community. I really have no desire to go back to our home in the valley as my heart is already up north. Hurry up, home in Queen Creek, and sell already! We are truly ready for our new adventures!

Thank you for following our journey and as always, see you in the trees. And please leave a comment!

Read the last post, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” here. Or find previous articles here.

Machelle James and her husband, AJ, are building, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.



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4 years ago

re: the house you are trying to sell. I won’t ask any questions, because its none of our business. But here is an alternative solution. ( if it is possible ) If you have enough equity, borrow against that, keep the house and rent it out. You can hire a property management company to find tenants and collect the rent for you. As long as you can rent it for enough to cover the loan payment, you can keep the house as an investment. Happy Trails.

Machelle James
4 years ago
Reply to  Peter

That’s a great idea Peter! We have to look into the pros and cons of that. We do have quite a bit of equity in the home and I have no doubt it would rent. Let’s see what the next two weeks look like. We may get an offer !!

Einar Hansen
4 years ago

Well it is to bad about your neighbor. But who knows? At least you tried to get off on the right foot. Maybe sometime down the road they just might be a big help. Too bad about the dogs. We hope that that is not going to stop you from having campers with pets? It is just one of those things that you might have to make a decision about I know. Some campgrounds will not allow some breeds of dogs on the grounds at all. I know it is a long road until you open. But hang in there! There is always some hurtles to get over. But in the long run things will get better and easier. Once you start making friends in the community you will be tapping into help that you can’t even think of now!

Machelle James
4 years ago
Reply to  Einar Hansen

Hi Einar! Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. We still plan on having a dog-friendly camp. We know how much families enjoy their extended family members. We visited the thrift store yesterday, met more people, bought fresh eggs and networked! Tonight we are supporting a Grand Opening of an Italian and wings restaurant. I absolutely love this town!

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