b'CAMPGROUND PROFILE BY JEFF CRIDERBig Meadow Family CampgroundsFocus on Customer Service, NewIdeas, Continues to Pay OffMalcolm Johnson spent the first 27 cialprotections,BarbaraJohnsonyears of his adult life in the banking said. That meant the Johnsons had tobusiness in Maryville, Tenn., just out- comply with different and more rigor-Big Meadow could add more sites, but has intentionally focused on creating larger, higher quality side Great Smoky Mountains National ous rules involving their septic system,sites, which has led to positive reviews from customers.Park. whichultimatelyquintupledtheBut when the banking industry en- budget they had initially allocated fortered a period of instability in the late dealing with wastewater.1980s and early 1990s, with numerous The Johnsons were required to in-mergers and acquisitions, Johnson de- stall a 28,000-gallon, three-chambercided it was time to get out. sewer tank and connect it to a leachHeandhiswife,Barbara,who field with 6,000 feet of leach field line.worked in corporate accounting for The three-chamber tank also had toAlcoaandRubbermaid,wereavid have three coats of a special sealer ap-campers and they decided theyd be plied to the walls and floor of the tank,better off going into the campground inside and out. A supervisor from thebusiness. state of Tennessees groundwater divi-We thought it would be an easier sion was onsite at the campgroundway to make a living, Malcolm said through every stage of the sewer proj-with a laugh. ect.Of course, it didnt take long for the But the Johnsons persevered, TheyJohnsons to realize that building, own- opened with 42 sites on May 22, 1995,ing, and operating a campground is and eventually expanded to 96 sites.one of the biggest challenges many Theysubsequentlydecidedtore-people will ever take on in their life- design their campsites to make themtimes. larger to accommodate towable andmotorized RVs with slideouts.When we hit 82 sites, we realizedthe industry was changing (to largertowable and motorized units), Bar-baraJohnsonsaid,sotheymadeastrategic decision to cut back on thenumber of campsites, in an effort tomake each campsite larger.We decided to offer quality camp-sites, rather than quantity, BarbaraJohnsonsaid,adding,Today,thesmallest campsite in our campgroundis 36 feet long, and we have 50 pull-through sites.TheJohnsonswillingnesstoex-Greg Johnson (L), with his parents, Barbara pand the dimensions of their camp-and Malcolm Johnson.sites gave them a strategic advantagein the Townsend area. Even thoughThe Johnsons have no regrets, how- therearesixothercampgroundsever. During the past 25 years, they within a two-mile radius of their park,have worked with their son, Greg, to the competing campgrounds are 30 tobuildBigMeadowFamilyCamp- 50 years old and have relatively fewgroundin Townsend, Tenn., into a suc- largecampsites.ThismakesBigcessful two-time National Association Meadow Campground a logical choiceof RV Parks and Campgrounds(ARVC) for RV enthusiasts with big rigs.Park of the Year award winnerin The Johnsons enjoy lots of referrals2013 and again in 2019. from other campgrounds in their areaLikemanymomandpopcamp- for this reason, although they also sayground operators, Malcolm and Bar- there is plenty of demand for camp-baraJohnsontransitionedintothecampgroundbusinessoverseveralyears. They used proceeds from theirrespective jobs to keep money cominginuntiltheycouldgettheircamp-ground business built and generatingenough income to cover their livingexpenses, as well as the expenses in-volved in running the campground.In the Johnsons case, they had theircampground open for three years be-fore Malcolm left his job at the bank inJuly 1998 and started working at theircampground full-time, with Barbaraleaving her job and joining him at thepark two months later.Getting the campground built washarder than they expected because ofenvironmental regulations they didntanticipate. Big Meadow operates with a small,We sit on an undammed wild river dedicated staff. called the Little River, which has spe-28 -April 2020Woodalls Campground Management'