Building an RV park: See the envisioned campground – plus more updates

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By Machelle James
When you build a commercial property in your town, there needs to be something called a neighborhood meeting. Now this is not required by the planning and zoning department, but it is a highly recommended meeting to have. This is a way to include your immediate neighbors so that they can see the plans of your project before the rest of the town does.

This makes sense because it addresses their concerns, fears, questions or anything they may have to say, and we can answer them privately. We had 12 neighbors show up to this meeting and I would say overall it went very well.

We previously met with a graphic designer who made artist renderings of our campground. When I saw how they came out I almost cried with joy! It truly showed our vision of what our campground is going to look like, with the roads, RV parking, ramadas, club house and check-in store. This was so important as it was visuals to show our neighbors, and I think it helped immensely in easing their fears of a “mega” campground.

After introductions of our family, I went into why we chose this location here in Heber-Overgaard. As most of you know already, it’s our favorite places to camp in the forest. It’s a place where we can reconnect with nature and stars, and with each other.

The questions the neighbors asked weren’t really a surprise for us. There were mostly questions about how high the fencing was going to be and what material was going to be used. Also, what our season was going to be (April – October). Other questions were how are we going to address side-by-side dust on the public road to the trail riding.

Believe me this is a concern of ours also. The road to the forest is dirt and the dust can get kicked up pretty easily. This is already an issue from locals as summer guests speed up and down the access road. I suggested to have someone get in contact with a water truck company, and have us homeowners pitch in to have the road watered once a week. They liked that idea and I do hope someone will take charge. That is just something I can’t fit into my plate, but I do support it.

I also recommended to call the Sheriff’s Department to report speeders. We have two new officers for our town and we may finally have some enforcement of speeders down our road. I also want our guests to respect and be accountable for the 25 mph speed limit outside our Campground. This will be written into our Campground Rules and Regulations, so this will not be a surprise to them to drive 25 mph on the public road.

What was so amazing is what happened after our meeting. We were offered a business proposal, we were hugged by the neighbors to welcome us to the community, and we were invited to go to church. Also, we were thanked for purchasing this property as there were some shady dealings going on here before us.

I think change is hard for people and they automatically think the worst is going to be built near them. I do believe the neighbors breathed a sigh of relief when they saw what we were building was small and seasonal. This seemed to put their minds at ease.

There was one family that we couldn’t please no matter what we said. As you all know, you are never going to please everyone. So we answered their concerns and let it go.

We also had another meeting with Planning and Zoning. We are being pushed back to the March meeting as they needed more information. We needed more description of landscape, sound control, road maintenance internally, ADOT confirmation of the emergency exit road, and a few clarifications on our Engineering plans. So we are working on all of this right now.

Another hurdle we are facing is bank financing. Our SBA loan is going at a snail’s pace, as our bank recommended we go to Campground Management School. So guess who is going to Campground Management School next week? I am. I’ll be going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to learn about the ins and outs of how to run a campground. I could not be more thrilled! I need to learn about the everyday tasks – from ordering inventory, reservation systems, ADA regulations, hiring practices and so much more. I’ll come back and share my knowledge with AJ, and together we will have a much better idea on what we really need to focus on.

I’m so thrilled to be able to show you what our preliminary vision of what AJ’s Getaway is going to look like.

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

Read Machelle’s 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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BILL O'DONNELL
9 months ago

Congrats on doing this the right way! One comment: SBA loans, because they involve federal government guarantees, move ponderously slow. Big banks are almost as slow. Combined, they’ll drive you nuts. As a business owner and financial advisor for 22 years, I’ve learned that large banks are not your friend; benefits to you are secondary to their own profit considerations.

Instead, try to work with local, state-chartered banks. Most of them have SBA-financing connections, but more importantly, they’re often focused on community banking. New businesses, or expanding businesses, are good for the community. State-chartered banks (e.g., East Bad Drainage State Bank) are more inclined to build relationships and do business based on trust.

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  BILL O'DONNELL

Hi Bill! Thank you for the recommendations! I will call our local bank. We have ONE bank in town and wasn’t sure if they would be able to handle what we need. I will still call them and see if they can get it done. I’m also interested in a USDA loan. Pros and Cons with each loan. I need to find out what makes sense for us. Thank you for taking the time to offer other solutions Bill! I’ll keep everyone posted on what is going to work for us!

warmonk
9 months ago

I worked four years in a seasonal RV park – April through October. I have followed your story and have made previous comments. Here are three more:

I may be mis-understanding the fourth photo/rendering. It shows a circle of RV’s. Not all are facing the same direction. All RV’s – except one or two B-Class units from the ’70’s and a few more recent products that have connections at the rear bumper – have their utility connections on the left side (driver’s side) of the unit. In circular parking, you either have the doors facing the roads or you put utilities by the road. Regardless, the result will be nose to tail parking.

Looking at your second photo/rendering, I am wondering how you expect RV arrivals and departures to mix with small vehicle traffic. Let me be clearer: RV arrivals and departures will expect to drive straight in or straight out but you will expect them to stop at the “office” to either check-in or check-out. Meanwhile, you will have smaller vehicles coming and going – to and from off-site recreation or off-site shopping – and they have no need to stop at the “office”. What I see in the image is that you are forcing those smaller vehicles to go around the building when the straight line route is clogged by RV’s arriving and departing. I can imagine that you may expect something different, but I can assure you that RV’s coming and going for their first and last time will create their own path of least resistance – either because they have never been there before or because they are going somewhere else. Have you ever been to a public park or playground where paved walkways are provided but never used? Eventually there is a well-worn trail created by the users not the planners.

I understand the beauty of curvy roads. I understand the need to maximize your useful space by providing a ring-road near your property line. Together, these two conditions increase the number of turns that an RV must negotiate when coming or going. More turns make for more mistakes. One of the lasting lessons I learned early on in my campground host career was that there is no way of knowing who can drive and who cannot. You cannot look at any rig and judge by the age of the driver, age of the rig, size and type of RV (motor home or trailer for example), or the sex of the driver, who can handle their unit with skill and who is going to careen off trees, posts, rocks, and other RV’s. Make it easy for the lowest common denominator because they will be among your customers.

Don’t get me wrong. I support your enthusiasm. I applaud your engagement of this community. In that spirit, I’m simply trying to give you an experienced perspective.

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  warmonk

Hi warmonk. Thank you for your observations. As for my Artist Renderings, they are just that. Our check in area will have temporary RV parking off to the right, past the check in area. Those are 2 lanes, are meant to hold up to 4 RV’s. Our roads coming in/out are 2 lanes. If we experience back ups, we can make adjustments with building a side road for UTV’s . Its not a bad idea as we may do that anyway.

Our corral camping will be correct with passenger side forming the circle to keep the campfire internal and for noise control.

The roads will be either one way or two way, based on the flow of traffic. We will have everything posted and marked for safety. All the camping spots will be all pull-throughs. Our next renderings will be more accurate as we present our visuals to Planning and Zoning next month.

Thanks for your input warmonk. It gave us something to think about.

Timothy Hardy
9 months ago

Looking at the drawings of your proposed campground, it appears that many of the parking spots will require “blind-side” backing to get into them. I would encourage you to make sure all the spaces are angled so that strong-side backing (sight-side backing) is the only way to go.

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  Timothy Hardy

Hi Timothy. So our Artist Rendering didn’t show all the spaces being pull throughs. Which they all are. We are going to have him make another Rendering as this was for our neighborhood meeting, not planning and zoning. That and he did this in 48 hours. I’ll have arrows showing street direction, show the pull throughs and street names as well.
Unless something wonky happens, we plan on having NO back in spaces. They will be angled sites and a few spots will be 65 x 85 ft long. Most will be 65 x 100 ft long though. The shorter the campspot length, the smaller will RV’s go there.

Gene Cheatham
9 months ago

Machelle, in 2003 we thoroughly investigated opening an RV park having been consumers for years. Our desire was to build one near St Louis, MO from scratch and early on in our research became familiar with and joined ARVC. What a great group. We bought most every publication they offered and planned to attend their school in SC.

We met with the IL State Campground Owners group where we were warmly welcomed and invited to their CG’s to see how they run. We investigated and hired a well known consultant from TX whose expertise was helping troubled CG’s and developing new ones. All this was done while we were narrowing site selection down to 2 or 3.

For your sake, I am pleased to see you are headed to ARVC’s school (based on what you stated, that sounds like the organization). If you aren’t already familiar with the term “camper nights” for your business plan, we will be very soon. This is an important number for revenue projections.

Our plans then did not come to fruition for a number of reasons and our research and planning saved our bacon. If the market for sites then was as hot as it is now we would have had a different end.

Your renderings look great and we wish you the best, and may drop in as we are planning on full time RV’ing for retirement in about 5 years. Enjoy the school!

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  Gene Cheatham

Hi Gene! Yes we are an ARVC Member and yes that is the CG Management School I’ll be attending. I thrive on information and cannot wait to learn everything you have learned. Our biggest hurdle now is our SBA loan. We are on our 2nd bank and were told it could take 20 banks to secure our funding. Also were told not to quit as this is such a unique space that most banks aren’t familiar with this Industry. Meeting on Tuesday with them. Then we will see which way we need to go.
Please do come by as we truly would love to meet all our supporters!

Thomas
9 months ago

Nice sign over entrance,BUT are you putting up a sign telling clearance of said sign or is It going to be an air conditioner destroyer?
Best of luck with zoning,they take forever. Someone can’t make it,no quorum, table it for another month and on and on. Hope you get what you need. Time is flying and an April start doesn’t give a LOT of building time for 2020.

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  Thomas

Hey Thomas. The sign will most definitely not be an AC Killer. It’s the Artist Rendering. We make our name much narrower and longer. This was just for show. And it is definitely a possibility we won’t open until next year. We are prepared either way. Of course our goal is this year, even if it’s a partial season.

brenda
9 months ago

You don’t happen to be going to Ocean Lakes as a part of that school do you? It is a very recognized park in our neck of the woods! Can’t wait to hear what you learn.

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  brenda

Hi Brenda! Our classes are not there, BUT there are Campground field trips scheduled for Friday. I have no idea where we will be going though!!

Tommy Reeves
9 months ago

I read a lot about problems in campgrounds with the electrical supply. IMO, if a campground is planned to have 15 spaces & offer 50a hookups at each campsite, the power supply to all of the sites requires a minimum of 750a. If you are fully booked, you need to be able to provide the full 50a to every site to prevent brownouts & power outages. Seldom would all sites have RVs at them hooked up to 50a service but if you offer 50a hookups, you should have full power capacity at each power pole. If you also have a 20a plug on each pole beside the 50a plug, then the 50a+20a should be available. That’s 1050a needed just for the 15 sites. Also, additional amperage will be needed for the requirements for the other buildings within the park: office, gatehouse, shower house, recreation building & security lighting.

Tanya Fittz
9 months ago

Congratulations you two!!! How very exciting. I hope in the near future my husband and I can make it to your beautiful AJ’s getaway . I’ll be honest I have never heard of Herber Overgaard, but look forward to learning about your small town. Best of blessings to the both of you. Keep on Camping

Machelle James
9 months ago
Reply to  Tanya Fittz

I’m so glad you found us Tanya! If you like a small town, lots of trees, 20* to 40* cooler than Phoenix, and super friendly people, I think you would enjoy it here! We look forward to meeting you someday!