b'Some Parks Left Repairing Damage After Hurricane Laura Hits in Late AugustHurricane Laura left a path of destruction in its wakeas it swept through Lake Charles, La., in late August. But several campground and RV park operators inLake Charles and neighboring communities said theywere still able and willing to accommodate evacueesand transient guests.Twelve Palms RV Parkwas particularly hard hit.We are without electricity and without water. (Thepark is) a debris field. All the campers are upside down.The office is missing its roof. We lost everything, saidSharon Howard, who spoke to Woodalls CampgroundManagement(WCM) about damage at the park.Parkguestsevacuatedbeforethehurricanehit,Howard said. But despite the damage and lack of util-ities, she said that Twelve Palms RV Park would con-tinue to offer space to people who want to camp there.The price is $400 a month, cash only, she said be-cause without power the park cant accept credit ordebit cards. Hurricane Laura was labeled by forecasters as being one Another park in Lake Charles, Twelve Oaks RV Park, of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S., forcing some com-also suffered damage but is able to take in campers, ac- munities to evacuate and deal with major cleanup efforts. cording to Lisa Thibodaux, executive director of theLouisiana Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, cause any damage. flood being the worst they had ever experienced.who spoke with the parks owner. We were extremely fortunate, she said. That is the We had water in 84 of 85 cabins, Maurice LeBlancThe damage was also significant 15 miles east of plus side of not having a mature landscape. We had 60 said. But while the 2.5- to 3-foot deep floodwaters wereLake Charles at the Lake Charles East Kampgrounds treesthatwejustplantedin only in their park for 12 hours, it was long enough forof America(KOA), which is located in the little town of 2018. the water to permeate the cabins walls and soak theIowa. One park operator who wasnt insulation, creating the potential for mold. The floodIt is open. We have water, but no power. There are hithardwithLouisianaslatest also damaged his six swimming pools and pool decks.a handful of sites that are not functioning because the hurricane was Maurice LeBlanc, The LeBlancs rebuilt their park and since they didcampers are turned upside down, said Deanna Dino, who co-owns and operates the not suffer the brunt of another hurricane, they pro-who works as an assistant to the owner of the park. YogiBearsJellystonePark vided cabins and campsites at half price for HurricaneOne of the newer parks in the KOA franchise net- Camp-Resort in Robert with his Laura evacuees. work, Dino said the park was built from the ground up wife, MeMe. The Jellystone Park location in Robert is about 180in 2018 and joined the KOA network in January 2019. In fact, between 2004 and 2016, mileseastofLakeCharles,welloutofHurricaneDino said damage to the park was limited in part be- Maurice LeBlanc the LeBlancs lost five of 12 Labor Lauras path.cause its newly planted trees had not grown enough to Day weekends due to hurricanes or floods with a 2016 Hurricane Lauracontinued on page 33Owners of Southeast Arizonas Gila Bend KOA Plan to Develop Seasonal ParkAfter a successful five-year run, theaward-winning Gila Bend Kampgroundsof America (KOA) is leaving the Kamp-grounds of America Inc. franchise net-work to become Sonoran Desert RV Park.The decision to leave the KOA fran-chise network was not an easy one, saidScottSwanson,who co-owns andoperatesthecampground withhismotherandbusinesspartner,SandyCatalana.Wearegratefulto KOA for givingusanincredibleScott Swanson opportunityto Scott Swanson has developed the Sonoran Deserttransformaneglectedindependent RV Park into an award-winning park, and he hascampground into one of the top five KOA his sights set on even more projects down the road. campgroundsinNorthAmerica.Butwere at a point now where we are ready time RVers who want a more affordable town, Swanson recalled. But with the Gila Bend KOA that Swanson and histo take our next steps with more creative park with fewer amenities than the Sonoran KOA brand, logo, marketing, and KOAs rep- mother purchased a 20-acre parcel nextcontrol over everything from our website, Desert RV Park. utation, we were able to get our business door with plans to build the future Redreservation system and branding to the Swanson and Catalana previously co- off the ground. Barn RV Park Gila Bend.types of amenities we provide. owned and operated Leaf Verde RV Resort Swanson and his mother have spent Itwillcatertothemorebudget-Swanson and Catalanas next steps in- 35 miles to the north in Buckeye, which they close to $1 million in improvements at the mindedRVtravelerwithbasicallynoclude continuing to develop the 122-site co-owned with 16 other family members Gila Bend KOA, which ranked fourth place amenities, just a place to park with fullSonoranDesertRVParkintooneof and sold in 2016. In 2015 the two purchased in guest satisfaction reviews out of over hook-ups, Swanson stated, adding, Thesouthwest Arizonas most attractive, yet Augies Quail Trial RV Park in Gila Bend, 500 KOAs in North America, according to Red Barn RV Park Gila Bend project wasaffordableparksforsnowbirdsand which was largely undeveloped. KOAs 2019 market group report released put on hold this past March when theovernight travelers. The mother-son team But after purchasing Augies, Swanson to KOA owners, up from fifth place the year pandemic hit, but we hope to get back to-has also acquired 20 acres of undevel- and Catalana quickly improved the park and before. The Gila Bend KOA was also hon- gether with our engineers and town offi-oped land next door, which they plan to were able to join the KOA network, which, ored with KOAs 2018 Rising Star Award, cials as soon as we are able to feel outdevelop into an affordable seasonal park they say,1 helped them tremendously with which is presented annually to a camp- themarketduringthisunpredictablecalled Red Barn RV Park Gila Bend. their initial marketing efforts. ground that has less than five years in the time.We hope to have the first campsites We knew we were taking a risk by pur- KOA system and is off to a fast start with Sonoran Desert RV Park, for its part,at Red Barn RV Park Gila Bend ready by chasing this property in Gila Bend due to its growth,investment,highguestservice has 122 full hookup RV Sites, four deluxefall of 2022, Swanson said, adding that remote location and its limited resources for scores and revenue. patio sites, two with private dog runs, Thethe park will cater to part-time and full- visitors without even a grocery store in Business has been so promising at the Gila Bend KOAcontinued on page 33WOODALLSCM.com October 2020-3'