It was 1953 when Ralph Raymon Jump purchased a four-acre soybean field in Williamsburg, Va., with no particular plan in place for its use.

It wasn’t until a year later that he was approached by a traveler looking for a place to park his truck.

“Then more people started popping up in the area and parking in the field,” Ralph’s grandson, Chris Jump, told WOODALLSCM.com (WCM).

Recognizing the need, Ralph created Anvil Campground, which is celebrating 65 years in business this year.

“When the park first started, the house on site had a dirt floor,” noted Jump. “They used to run extension cords out of the house to power the early RVs that would come in.”

Built out in the middle of nowhere at the time, according to Jump, with three miles of empty land separating the park from the town, today, those three miles are filled with businesses, mostly hotels and restaurants.

In the park’s first brochure a site went for $2.50 a night and when Jump’s parents, Jerry and Patricia Jump, took over operation of the park in 1974 the campground had 33 sites and a large garden.

A swimming pool was put in and Jerry installed the park’s original septic tanks by hand, noted Chris Jump.

“Dad would always talk about how those projects were not a lot of fun to do,” Jump explained.

Overtime, Jump mentioned that the park adapted to the needs of the campers.

He noted that outbuildings were built, including game and family rooms, and a room to do laundry in. Discounts were invented, including offering campers a fourth day of camping for free.

Allie, Chris Jump’s older sister, brought the park online by creating the park’s first website in 1997 and revenue jumped 204% over the next five years.

Anvil Campground is now deemed the oldest campground in Virginia and among the top five oldest in the nation, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

The winner of ARVC’s 2018 “Small Park of the Year” award, which honors a park with 100 or fewer sites, Anvil Campground is also a top-rated Good Sam Park and Jump noted that the campground is the second highest rated park in Virginia.

Jump took over operation of the park in July of 2005 at the age of 23, eventually purchasing the park from his family in 2011.

“I was still a kid and I had lot to learn,” he noted. “It was kind of tough at first because I didn’t have a lot of people to serve as mentors or advisors, so I had to figure everything out myself. I had nothing to reference to because dad kept everything in his head and wasn’t very good with record keeping.”

Jump knew that the park needed work to make it an attraction point for campers and his dad had previously left the day-to-day operations of the park under the control of another manager, so Jump said there were a lot of things to sort through.

When Jump first took over the park it had 30-amp electrical hookups, water and sewer. Jump has added 50-amp pedestals to every site and completed the installation of Wi-Fi, as well as moving all bookkeeping to the office’s computer.

“We are currently in the process of renovating eight of our premium sites to patio sites,” he explained. “The patio sites will feature concrete pads, stone fire pits, picnic tables and will also be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.”

One of the big changes over the past 65 years is the size of RVs that people are bringing into the park, according to Jump, which is why he has also widened each site to allow for larger RVs with slide outs.

In 2017, the campground opened Beach Park next to the swimming pool, which includes 130,000 pounds of sand, a zip line, hammocks, multiple slides, playground equipment, grills, tables, chairs and shade.

“It is fully gated so that kids are safe, and it offers our guests a nice place to gather and enjoy the outdoors,” Jump said.

All of the improvements, according to Jump, have made the park more profitable and he notes that he continues to see a strong flow of campers at the park.

Jump noted to WCM that today’s campers are expecting more of a high-end hotel feel, since they are either driving or pulling RVs that costs thousands of dollars.

He said that while the park is close to a Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, neither of those attractions existed when Ralph first opened the park’s doors.

“Busch Gardens didn’t come in until 1975 and since that point we have seen an influx of families come into the area,” Jump explained. “Then some state and national parks were created nearby, and the historical-themed parks moved in. By the 1980s there were a lot of kids here and that has held true today. We mostly cater to families and retirees, although we do get a few full-timers and snowbirds.”

Open year-round, Jump noted that he spends a lot of his time at the park talking with his campers and that he trains his staff to do the same thing.

“I want them to ask the campers how they are doing and where they are going,” he explained. “My entire staff knows about all of the area attractions and we can help guests get pointed in the right direction. All of our policies are guests focused. The money will come as long as you take care of the guests and do everything to make the guest’s stay a pleasant and happy one.”

That service in turn has generated a lot of repeat business for the park, with Jump noting that guests love the family atmosphere.

“Not only do they come back, but they bring along friends and family, because they want to share the experience with them,” he said.

The campground is also an active part of the local community, supporting local athletics and other groups, including the National MS Society, which the park is going to work with to raise awareness and funds as the park celebrates its 65th year.

“Also, at our fall jamboree we will be fundraising to help people struggling with cancer,” explained Jump.

When power outages occur, Jump said that the park opens its bathhouse facility to the community, so that people can have hot showers.

“We have a generator that keeps the building going if we also lose power,” he noted.

Looking toward the future, Jump said that he has become an active member of the Virginia Campground Owners Association and that he has begun discussing future ideas with other campground owners.

“I am looking to add a jump pad here fairly soon,” he noted. “We have a recreation center that we are going to renovate, and I am bringing in a few more cabins.”

While there is a piece of land nearby that could offer a chance for expansion down the road, Jump said that he feels no pressure to change things drastically.

“We have a good thing going here and I don’t want to rock the boat too much,” he said.