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Ocean City, Md.-based Blue Water Development intends to open two additional campgrounds in 2020 — redeveloping one park and building another from the ground up —boosting its private park portfolio to eight parks in five states across the Eastern Seaboard.

The new parks include a heavily wooded former Boy Scouts of America camp in Jamaica, Va. with frontage along the Rappahannock River that has room for about 900 RV and tent sites.

“We hope to be under construction soon and have 400 sites open by next summer,” said James Baeurle, Blue Water’s director of development.

He described the former Boy Scout camp as “an amazing property” with a 20,000-square-foot recreation center, two Olympic size swimming pools, rock climbing walls, ziplines and a 300-seat bonfire amphitheater.
Blue Water has also acquired undeveloped land in Delaware City, Del., next to historic Fort DuPont State Park that faces the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, a 14-mile-long, 450-foot-wide deep ship canal that connects the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay.

“We should break ground in August or September and open in the spring of 2020 with 500 sites,” Baeurle said.

The Delaware City campground will have swimming pools and family activities, though the real amenity is historic Fort DuPont State Park itself, which is within walking distance from the campground.

Campground guests will also be in a prime location to watch massive ships move through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

“You can almost reach out and touch them,” Baeurle said.

Blue Water also has more campground acquisitions and development plans in the works.

“We probably have another 10 opportunities that are in some level of discussion,” Baeurle said, adding that Blue Water is very interested in acquiring more campgrounds, particularly Sunbelt properties that include significant water features.

“We are really trying to push our development into warmer climates allowing for more year-round activities,” he said.

Blue Water encountered unforeseen zoning and building permit issues that prevented the company from opening a 234-site campground near North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) park by Memorial Day weekend, as originally planned.

Blue Water did manage to open the campground in a limited fashion as Hampton Lodge Campground on June 1 and plans to join the KOA franchise network next summer, after sufficient improvements are completed to bring the park into compliance with KOA standards. The Coinjock, N.C., park will be renamed the Outer Banks West/Currituck Sound KOA.

Blue Water’s growing focus on developing campgrounds represents a significant diversification for the company, which is owned and operated by the Burbage family.

Prior to founding Blue Water Development in 2006, Jack and Todd Burbage were involved in a variety of residential and commercial real estate development projects, including hotels.

The Burbage family entered into the world of campgrounds when they bought the Berlin, Md., private park that later became Castaways RV Resort and Campground in 2005, with the idea of bulldozing the property and converting it into housing.

But a downturn in the housing market prompted the nascent Blue Water Development Company to instead focus on making improvements to the campground, drawing from expertise the company had gained from running an assortment of hotels. The company eventually sold Castaways in 2014 to Southfield, Mich.-based Sun Communities Inc.

But the experience of turning a poorly performing campground into a profitable RV resort convinced the Burbages of the potential for future business opportunities in the private park business, and they have continued to acquire and renovate existing campgrounds and build new parks from the ground up ever since.

“We’re looking at more diversification,” said Kimberly Wootteon, Blue Water’s director of sales and marketing, adding that the company is highly diversified with a mix of independent and branded hotels, RV resorts, campgrounds and amusement parks, including a waterpark.

“Blue Water is rooted in real estate development, but has expanded to include a hospitality management company,” Wootteon said, adding that one of the company’s recent projects was the construction of the Aloft by Marriott in Ocean City, Md.

“Blue Water Development has over 20 employees,” Wootteon said. “Blue Water Hospitality consists of a regional team of 20 and our on-property teams flex from 50 to about 400 in season. All of our campground employees and select hotels fall under the Blue Water Hospitality umbrella. A portion of our hotel portfolio is managed by a third-party company.”