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Filed under: Campgrounds & RV Parks, RV Campgrounds, Tent Campgrounds

This Story Needs a Happy Ending.

May 7, 2011 by · 12 Comments 

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It was great to see Chris.  It had been almost two years since I had traveled to his part of Virginia.

We were sitting in a golf cart overlooking the campground and an adjacent 22-acre lake.  The newly emerged green leaves had filled the winter induced voids between  the tree branches, the water lilies were forming, some wild Canada geese were on the lake.  It was a beautiful scene.

The campground is part of a working farm that has been in Chris’s family for over a hundred years.  The campground part started in 1961.  In 2004, they invested almost a million dollars improving the campground – all new electric and sewer along with concrete pads and patios.  They built a new bathhouse and the pool was updated.  Yes, it is a beautiful place and camping there has always been an enjoyable experience.

I asked Chris how everything was going.  He looked at me and responded, “Randy, I think this will be the last season I’ll open the campground.”

I was shocked – no, flabbergasted is a more appropriate term.  All I could think to say in response was “You have got to be kidding – why would you close the campground after all of the improvements you recently made?”

Chris was silent for a few minutes.  He just gazed out over the campsites and lake.  Then he started to explain why.

“Things have changed.  People that come here are not as considerate and responsible as they used to be.

For example, I spent a lot of money on new picnic tables when we upgraded.  Most of them have holes burned in them from charcoal grills being placed on top.  We even had one chopped up and used for firewood by a camper last week.

We have signs on the fence around that pasture over there telling people to keep out.  Marmaduke (the bull) stays in that pasture.  He can get nasty if he is provoked.  Two kids, maybe 12 years old, crossed the fence and were throwing rocks at Marmaduke.  Luckly Bobby (Bobby is Chris’ son)  saw them out there and was able to run them out of the pasture before Marmaduke hurt them.  I went to talk to the kids parents.  They had no idea where the kids were.  They had just let them run loose unsupervised since early that morning.  When I told them what had happened it was like, Well OK, what’s the problem?

The bathhouse was trashed earlier this week.  All of the toilets were stopped up and the showers turned on hot and abandoned.  It took most of the day to get everything back in order.

We had a couple of aluminum Jon boats over by the dock for campers to use.  They are gone.  Someone either hauled them out of here or sank them out in the middle of the lake.

Our electric bill has gone through the roof – almost triple what it was.  Campers come in and turn on air conditioners then leave.   They run all day with no one there.  Many of the rigs now have electric water heaters, dryers, and convection ovens.  The attitude of campers is they pay for it so it makes no difference how much power they use.

The number of campers is down from last season and those that do come complain about our rates, which we have not increased in five years.  All of our costs are up – trash disposal has gone from $30 a week to $200 a week.  Our liability insurance premiums have tripled.

This is just the tip of the iceberg – everything has changed.  It seems like people just don’t care anymore.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I wondered what had happened to create the change.  I looked at Chris and said,  “All of your campers can’t be bad, can they?  What about the folks and families that come here that act responsibly and respect your facility?

Chris slowly shook his head as he replied, “I know closing will hurt them, but I can’t afford to operate this place with what I see as rampant abuse.  I may keep the campground open exclusively for seasonal campers – maybe a few sites for select campers like you.”  With that, he looked at me and managed a smile.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

As I was driving back home the next day my mind was spinning with all that Chris shared.  I simply was not prepared for his story.  Sure, I knew the cost of operating a campground must have risen as the economy faltered.   New regulations on landfills had changed trash disposal.   It made sense that Chris had not increased his rates – doing so would discourage family campers that were already squeezed with rising fuel and food prices.

It was his description of the lack of responsibility being displayed by an increasing number of campers that really bothered me – it was not what I had come to believe was happening.

I then began thinking about some of my camping habits.  I wasn’t the most frugal with electrical usage.  We did leave the air conditioner running when we were not in the camper.  Maybe we could raise the thermostat when we were away for more than an hour or so?  The remainder of Chris’s problems were not part of our agenda, but we had observed behavior like Chris described.

I was upset – I still am.  Once again, irresponsible behavior and a lack of proper supervision of children are having an impact on our lifestyle as responsible campers.

What can we do to stop the loss of beautiful campgrounds like this one?

Comments

12 Responses to “This Story Needs a Happy Ending.”
  1. Jon says:

    I am not surprised at this happening. Seems like that 10% who don’t care has grown to 20%. People check in and think that gives the right to do what ever they please. Retired from retail and believe me people let their kids run wild in the store. I can imagine what they do once they get to the campground. I for one don’t hesitate to say something to anyone who is trying to mess something up. I like to leave my campsite cleaner than I found it. That means picking up butts even though I don’t smoke. Cleaning out the fire pit of their ju.nk that they throw in it..and yes the dog droppings.

  2. Tlee says:

    What a shame! First of all, rising costs for trash and utilities DO have to be passed on, if business are to stay open, but there are some things that campground owners might do. This is not in response directly to your particular location description, but I for one would like to see owners ask customers to leave if they don’t follow rules. Owners should not open themselves to liability if an area (with a BULL!, pool, driveway) is posted ,and/or campers are directed to supervise their children, when customers are clearly not following posted rules that could have safety consequences. Most campgrounds require parents to supervise children. Some even don’t allow children off campsites without adults. If confronted with children obviously in an unsafe area or behaving in unacceptable or destructive manner, those campers should immediately rectify the situation or be evicted. Period. Safety of ALL campers is imperative. If parents are not responsible, OUT! Forfeit prepaid fees, or not, whatever has been put in the check-in agreement. And PUT IT IN THE CHECK-IN AGREEMENT!
    Water faucets should be fitted with automatic shutoffs. Keys or keypads for restrooms, and stepped up frequency of supervision may be an unhappy fact of life that will prevent vandalism. W have stayed in campgrounds where it was nearly impossible to locate anyone on staff for long periods of the day. You open yourself to little problems becoming big ones if that is the case in your campground business. Workshare some extra people to be available when you are not.
    Pleasant signage and notices in brochures about energy consumption and costs can go a long way toward savings, but also a different fee schedule POSTED prominently for RV’s which are not occupied for several hours with the AC running may be a step that needs to be taken. I have never seen that, but would think twice about leaving mine running. People who leave pets inside when they are gone may feel it is worth the extra fee to leave the AC running. Others may decide they can stand a few minutes of heat while the place cools down rather than pay extra if they know they may get an extra fee tacked on.
    Any business that deals with the public has to work with inconsiderate, ignorant people, and often worse. Be where you know what is going on or have help who does. High regular visibility of staff and positive pleasant signage can only do so much. Enforcing rules that have been stated CAN and should help. No one likes to do it, but other campers will thank owners who do, I am sure. Those same boors who are letting their children run wild, trash their sites and the shower/clubhouse/pool areas are annoying everyone else, too, and driving costs up for everyone. EJECT them. They are on private land. They can be put off. They are not going to be any more or less pleasant either way, and owners and campers will all be ahead when they are out of there.

  3. Bob Reising says:

    Pure and simple, recover your costs. If you need to double the rate, so be it. I think you will find the above-mentioned offenders gone for good. It’s a shame that you will lose some families that take care of their brood and don’t let them run after the livestock. The idiots will find other campsites where they can act like they used to. Above all else, this is a business and rather than call it quits – charge accordingly.

    It’s still cheaper than the Marriott or Hyatt.

  4. Janet says:

    Sadly, whether a campground or a state park or the highway, there are those who are respoponsible and there are those who create a need for the rule in the first place. Common courtesy and social responsiblility go a long way toward making the camping way of life a pleasant experience.
    Be it cleaning up after your dog, parenting your child (in a cg, store or movie theatre) and just having a moral compass and respect for others is what being an adult is all about!
    A guest at a hotel pays the the anemities the hotel provides BUT can be “put out” if the rules are not followed. So be it with a campground. You pay a fee but that does not give you the right to misuse and abuse!
    I hope your friend gives it another year. Maybe some changes could be made (some maybe listed above in other comments) that would have an effect. Maybe some conversations or a “fact sheet” could be part of the check-in packet. The place sounds like a perfect place for a getaway but alas I don’t know the name of it…
    PS I hope they charged the camper for the cost of the picnic table AND a an extra “bad camper” fee!

  5. Professor95 says:

    Chris did not want the name of their campground listed with his comments. I respect his request.
    He will be reading all comments to my blog and I am sure everything will be considered.

    One comment he did make that I did not include in the blog was that “older” campers never cause problems. The newer generation seems to be where the issues are coming from.

    He has ejected some irresponsible campers, but issues like trashing the bath house, sinking the boats and other acts cannot always be connected to a particular person or persons.

    Rules are important, but enforcing them requires personnel to patrol. 24 hour patrols 7 days a week will require 4-5 employees. Very costly! I like the work camper suggestion. Maybe he will do this.

    He is still charging $35 a night for a WSE site Sunday night thru Thursday night. The rate for Friday and Saturday nights is $45. This is up to six people per site maximum per health department regulations. He will not rent a site to anyone unless at least one person in the group is at least 21. They no longer have sites for tent camping.

    BTW – Chris and his family are some of the nicest and most generous folks you will find anywhere. The history of the campground is very interesting. Perhaps I will share the story of how it started and grew in a future blog.

    Thanks for all the input.

    Randy (Professor95)

  6. Patti Faustini says:

    Hi Randy, and great article. I have found the only way to deal with the decline of civility and people’s unwillingness (or inability) to deal with their children is to “load up the front end.” That is, for businesses and people like Chris to make expectations so painfully clear at point of reservation or registration, that those high standards chase away the kinds of people who make Chris want to quit.

    Also, require a”human” deposit. If people act like animals keep the deposit. Seriously.

    I have cheerfully given required deposits on my pets and children over the years because I know I will get the deposits back…and I always have. God bless your wonderful friend and his family.
    Happy tales, Patti

  7. John says:

    Have you ever thought about meters at each camp sight. Have heard that some camp grounds are using the system now.

  8. kielmartin says:

    wow it is so cute
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  9. Professor95 says:

    John,

    Chris does have electric meters on his annual lease campsites. From what I understand about Virginia and ALL campgrounds in the state is that a campground cannot resell electricity. Thus, the bill would have to come from the local public utility and people on a site would need to have the power turned on, make a deposit or have good credit, then pay the utility company.

    If campsites were allowed to install what is called a type A meter, take a reading as the camper was leaving and either deduct the power charge from the deposit (as Patti suggested) or ask for separate payment I believe ALL of us would benefit. But, unless the law changes, the word is no.

    Now, getting way, way off the topic of Chris’ campground – Nancy and I are not really interested in a swimming pool or bath houses at a campground. But, we pay for them anyway when we camp. I personally believe an al a carte camping facility would be great. One basic fee for the site, extra fees for use of the pool and bath houses and higher amperage power outlets. A national park we visit has coin operated showers – not a bad idea.

    I also wonder why the Expedia or Hotels.com method of renting out unbooked rooms and airline seats at a lower price has not hit campgrounds. I would “think” it would be more cost effective to rent a campsite for a few dollars less than the regular price at the last minute than to let it sit empty. I know Camp Club USA and other 50% off camping programs have addressed some of this but they are only a drop in the bucket of what could happen.

    Another thought has been for the Good Sam Club or Woodall’s to have a camper rating system, not just a campground rating. Campers have an ID number on their GS or Woodall’s card. If a camper causes problems, the campground returns a poor rating for the ID number to an Internet database. If they are a good camper, they get a good rating. Thus, when we stop at a campground the owner checks the database by our ID number. If we are “good” we get the 10% discount. If we are “Bad” we pay a deposit or up-charge. Maybe if campers knew their behavior was being tracked it would help?

    Oh well, I just wish we had a better way to stop campground abuse than higher charges, rent-a-cops, rules contracts, damage deposits, etc. Like I said in the blog – I am still upset about Chris’ campground issue. I also believe the problem goes well beyond his campground – I just happened to be the beneficiary of his frustration venting (and I am glad he shared). I am also sick and tired of paying money out of my pocket for other people’s lack of responsibility. The added daily charge for bringing a pet is one example of that burr in my saddle.

    Randy (Professor95)

  10. Bob L says:

    Feel the pain!!!! We have 38 apartments and yes there is a bunch of lowere than the low always wanting to get into the place and see what they can destroy in a small amount of time. Lots of the CG’s we go to have a limit of two people and two vechiles and any extra’s are EXTRA charge some up to $25.00 per extra person. and then there is the 45+ age group to be admitted.
    Thanks and like the blog’s

  11. Unfortunately, you could implement all the rules and regulations, and additional fees but the worst of offenders will always find a way to route the system. For instance, a pool fee. They would just find a way to hop the fence, sneak in, or even steal whatever id or sticker you might need to get in. Kind of like gun regulations. The bad guys are going to have them no matter what laws you try to enforce. As a fulltime RV family w/3 teenagers, I’ve found many places now charge more per child to recoup costs. I don’t think it’s so much unsupervised children (at least those of a certain age) as it is children who have not been taught how to behave, who seem to be in charge of the parents, and feel like they are entitled to do whatever they want. I don’t watch my kids 24/7 and I think kids from way back when probably had more roaming freedom than kids today. But they had a different kind of boundary- the knowledge or at least the fear of consequences. I do agree that tenters are often the biggest offenders. After volunteering for 2 months at a popular beachside park in Florida, we rotated who had to clean up “tent city”. We started losing our faith in humanity! I do think it would help if every kid in America had to spend one day cleaning up campground sites. My kids sound like some of the retired folks complaining about all the inconsiderate campers of today!

  12. Dick Cassada says:

    Read the first line of the artical carefully. I confused this artical as Criscampground which is in Spearfish, SD. I spoke with the owner to make arrangements for our stay this summer mentioned this artical and the confusion. Please all, understand that Chris Campground & RV Park is alive and well. They are eagerly awaiting your stay with them. It is a wonderful campground located in one of our Countries more beautiful areas.
    Their link is the very first one after the blog and is confussed as being the Chris campground in Virginia.
    Tnx for listening.

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