Arizona ARVC mourns death of founder Jack Denton

A memorial service will be held in September for Jack E. Denton, a longtime campground industry pioneer who helped establish Arizona’s first campground industry association as well as the national organization that later became the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

Denton, 89, died Aug. 26 in Peoria, Ariz., after suffering from complications from a broken hip he sustained earlier in the week. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the First United Methodist Church at 7102 N. 58th Drive in Glendale, Ariz.

“Jack was considered the ‘Father of our industry in Arizona,” Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, stated in a news release. “He was truly a treasure that we all adored. Jack never missed any meetings or conventions. We could always count on him for support.”

Denton built the Flagstaff KOA in 1967, just five years after the founding of Kampgrounds of America. The campground, located at an elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, is one of the oldest continuously owned KOAs in the 484-park KOA system in North America.

Denton was a charter member of Arizona ARVC’s precursor, the Arizona Campground Owners Association, which he helped form in 1975. He served on the state organization’s board of directors for over 30 years.

Always active on legislative issues, he was instrumental in passing legislation to create a Scenic Byways program not only in Arizona, but across the U.S., Mickelson said. He was also a strong advocate for private parks as they struggled with competitive issues involving government run parks.

“He was on a first name basis with the Forest Service in Flagstaff and was always partnering with them for the benefit of campgrounds and RV parks in northern Arizona,” Mickelson said.

At the national level, Denton was a charter member of the National Campground Owners Association (NCOA), the precursor to today’s ARVC, and briefly served on the national association’s board of directors, according to David Gorin, a former ARVC president who was hired by the national association in the late 1980s.

“He loved the industry,” Gorin said of Denton, adding that Denton was very involved in national issues in the 1970s and ’80s, when insurance companies were pulling out of the campground insurance business. Denton served on a national insurance trust set up by NCOA that helped identify and recruit companies to provide insurance to campground operators.

In the 1990s, Denton was also very involved with competition from government run campgrounds. “Whatever the Arizona travel industry was involved with that impacted campgrounds and RVs, Jack was at the table,” Gorin said.

According to KOA, Denton held several leadership roles in the KOA Owners Association, and was an innovator and “early adopter” of many KOA practices and amenities. His Flagstaff campground showcased several green initiatives, including an on-site recycling program. Denton had recently installed wind turbines to offset energy use, and his park was designated as an Environmental Impact Education Park.

Denton is survived by his two children, Robin and Jerry, of Glendale; granddaughter, Jessica; and two nieces, Barbara Funkhauser and Barbara Burns, from New Mexico and his longtime friend, Mary Smith, who owned, KOA of Redding in Redding, Calif. He was preceded in death by his wife, Chris.