Monday, September 25, 2023


Building an RV park: Campground, Smampground. Everything is ON HOLD!

By Machelle James

My brain is fried. I am on Coronavirus overload. I had to turn off the news as the ups and downs with the stock market, new virus cases, unemployment, furloughs and politics are fueling anxiety that I never had before. These days life is a lot different by staying indoors, away from friends and family – and I am NOT used to being so isolated.

We found out that due to the banks being closed and everyone told to go home, our loan is at a standstill. It’s on hold with no one even looking at it anymore. I am frustrated, and I am angry. I understand it, I really do. This is not just affecting us, but many people around us as well. We are sitting here waiting to get funding, waiting to start, and everything has been put on hold.

Not only that, but our public meeting with Planning and Zoning has been put on hold as well. We were informed that they have postponed all public meetings until further notice OR until they figure out a way to hold public meetings online. I suggested Zoom meetings, as you can have up to 100 people in that meeting for free. I am not sure if that will go anywhere, but I did suggest it.

On top of all that, we have a small group of neighbors who complained to Planning and Zoning that they didn’t have a chance to come to our prior neighborhood meeting. We were advised (even though it’s not mandatory) to have another meeting via online to show a PowerPoint Presentation to the concerned neighbors.

It’s crazy how people’s minds work. They all assume the worst. The fear of a HUGE RV park being built across the street from them. Now you all know how small we really are, so this makes me laugh. They also are fighting the zoning we have. It’s unfortunate that I have to explain to them that we are the correct zoning and we are NOT asking for a zoning change. We are zoned correctly. We just need a permit to operate.

It’s comparable to us to agreeing to a more stringent set of rules and guidelines to abide by for operating an RV Park. Any of you who own or built an RV Park are very aware of the NIMBYs who simply have no argument besides, “I don’t like change and I just don’t want it here.”

On a good note, we were able to meet the only local Off Road mechanic and his wife before we were all ordered to stay home. They are Mike and Vickie, and they only opened up shop in our small town two years ago. They are super busy being the only Off Road shop up here. They were delighted to have us partner with them for when we do open and our guests have a trusted mechanic to fix their OHVs.

We also met with our insurance agent to learn about the true costs for operating an OHV-friendly campground. While they have rules that we as campground owners need to enforce, it wasn’t that bad at all. Arizona is such a HUGE off-roading state that it was not a surprise, nor rare, to ask for this type of insurance.

We are NOT renting ATVs or Side x Sides at all. That has different insurance requirements. We simply have to make sure children under 16 years old wear a helmet, and they cannot drive themselves around the inside of the campground. Mom and Dad have to drive their OHVs to outside the property or they can push their own OHVs outside our property line. We have to follow the rules, and so do our families.

In the interim of this madness, AJ and I have decided to keep working on things that we can do ourselves until the storm ends. We are digging out tree roots with our friend’s excavator, we are still cutting down the shrubs for RV storage and we will be putting up a temporary fence this weekend. I am going to nail down some sign ideas for the internal parts of the park: street signs, one-way signs, CHECK IN HERE signs, site number signs and our Clubhouse sign. I have wonderful friends who want to help with wood cutting and painting of our signs, so I am thankful for them as well!

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on our neighborhood meeting as well as any promising news that comes our way.

Thank you all for following our journey and, as always, See You in the Trees!

And please leave a comment.

Read 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.



  1. You have no idea… It’s not only “some neighbors“ that are imbeciles, but the LAND OWNERS as well…

    I was in the process of buying 75 acres to build a new, 400-site cg in the Northeast. I don’t want to mention the state because they may see themselves, but the wife backed out of the sale (in which I was paying double the appraised value due to the spectacular location) because she felt they’d be living too close to the “noise” and “campfire smoke”, despite their home being nestled inside 20 acres of dense woods, with 5+ ac on each side for shear privacy. I had $30k invested in engineering, AND she was a retired school teacher!

    It pains me to think this ignorant mentality is teaching our children today. Not really ignorant though, as she was “educated” on all the benefits of a new, top-notch camping resort the Town really wanted… Some people, you just can’t reach…

    I feel your pain. I’m back at Ground Zero myself. Maybe this sudden, unforeseen delay worked out in my favor… I was supposed to be opening April 2020. It would have been scary trying to pay back a $5.5M loan under these travel-restrictive conditions.

    The Lord works in mysterious ways. Best wishes for success are sent your way, however. Hang in there. Better days are ahead. Stay safe everybody! 💜

  2. I’ve been following your experience with interest. Got the campground marked on my Google map and following you on Instagram so that we can visit once you open for business. 🙂

    • That is awesome Andrea!! Thank you so very much for following our Campground journey!! We do hope to meet you and welcome you to the AJ’s Getaway Family!!

    • Hi Brenda! They are directly across the street from us and a few doors down…they wouldn’t get any RV traffic at all….

  3. Machelle and AJ- Hang in there! We’ll all get through this, and life will get back so some kind of “normal”. Personally, I can’t wait to visit you in your new park. You are in a BEAUTIFUL part of AZ!!!

    • Thank you so much for the positive reply! We WILL get through this eventually. And I do hope you get to make it up to our little slice of Heaven!! Not many people know that we have pine trees here!!

  4. Just want to know what “prevented” these small neighbors from attending the scheduled announced meeting. The other concerned neighbors attended with no fanfare so why they? Members of the neighboring HOA, haha.
    As I commented the first time your story ran on RVtravel, “as a former vet, I salute your endeavor”. Keep the faith and be safe.

    • Hi Gman! I was told a couple neighbors said they didn’t have enough notice to drive up from valley to their second homes up here. And the other neighbors just couldn’t make it. They only made noise when they saw the official Planning and Zoning announcements all around our property. Soooo, as good neighbors, we are offering another presentation on our Business Page via FB Live next week.. that should be interesting!!

    • I think once the neighbors see our plans, they won’t be as fearful anymore. That is exactly what happened at our first meeting. People were just fearful.
      And thank you very much for your service and your support!!

  5. It is truly a shame, the amount of negative Nellies there are. Just keep doing what you are doing and everything will work out as it is supposed to! Good luck and stay safe!

    • Thank you Ed! It’s always a battle when a business comes to any town we are learning. NIMBY is pretty much everywhere unfortunately. We will get through it!!

  6. I really enjoy to read about the progress that you are making on your RV Park. That has got to be frustrating that the bank wasn’t able to somehow work from home on the paperwork that would help have your loan process in a faster manner. Although I would imagine getting workers out to do certain jobs could be hard right now with so many hunkering down and staying home. Best of luck to you and it will get done. Maybe just a little later than anticipated.

    • Thank You Rick. We will be working on non big ticket items during this time. I am going to paint our internal signage. AJ is working on the landscape and starting to plant our garden. We appreciate your continued support!!


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