Green Acres

Green Acres Campground added 17 new sites last year.

Labor challenges, rising gas prices and other expenses don’t seem to be impacting park owners too much and Green Acres Campground near Redding, Calif., is a prime example.

WOODALLSCM.com (WCM) spoke with co-owner Steve Davis, who runs the family-owned business with his brother, Peter, and his wife, Vicky. Davis lives in Sonoma County three hours from Green Acres.

“We have a resident manager that manages the property on a daily basis, but we spend quite a bit of time on the property,” he said.

He added that having the family pitch in to help manage different aspects of the park adds greatly to its success.

“We bought the park in November 2018,” he continued. “We weren’t looking for an RV park, but we stumbled across Green Acres and fell in love with it. The previous owner was the original owner. It has some land around it that hasn’t been developed yet. So, it has some potential to expand.”

Pete and Davis both have a background in construction and saw a nice opportunity for a business that could potentially expand.

“Yeah, I am failing at retirement,” he quipped. “Running a business is not a part-time job. My brother and I are doing a lot. We’re taking care of all the attention-to-detail things that nobody sees but a property owner. There are tons of them.”

But cutting costs by handling the minor and major projects of the park save money and lower overhead, resulting in a higher return on investment, according to Davis.

“You learn that when you run a business,” he said. “We’ve owned it for three-and-a-half years, but we’re not done with improvements at the park. We have a five-year plan. We don’t want to work near as hard as we did last year when we added all the new sites to the park. We did everything except for finishing the concrete and asphalt.”

The brothers added 17 news sites last summer, bringing the park’s total up to 50 sites. Davis shared that the average concrete pad is 18-by-60 to 65 feet long to accommodate longer RVs, but they are not the pull-through sites that he wanted to do. The longest pad is 85 feet.

Davis and Peter put in the utilities, all the underground water systems, concrete forms and rebar tying on all the pads.

“Everything was done by the two of us and we did it for a pretty remarkable price,” Davis explained. “It would’ve cost us three or four times what we paid to expand the park if we hadn’t done it. It was a lot of work.”

As always, picking a successful location has added to its success. In this case, the location limits his overnight campers as he has a majority of seasonal customers.

“We’re one of the few RV parks that are close to downtown and the city core area,” he explained. “Most of the other RV parks in Redding are on the I-5 corridor. Some of them are literally right on the freeway or very close to the freeway. We’re about three miles off the freeway, so we don’t do as much overnight business as those folks probably do.”

He thinks he is seeing a decrease in the number of campers on the road and has an interesting polling system he uses to monitor this trend.

“I do a survey when I drive home on I-5,” Davis explained. “I head south on 5, towards Sacramento and count RVs on the road. It gives me a feel for how many people are out there. My record between my house and the park (three hours) is 300 RVs. I think that was heading into a Fourth of July weekend. But usually, I’ll see 50 RVs in that first half hour and over Memorial weekend there were only 20. I think people are not hitting the road for longer trips because of costs.”

Green Acres (2)

Green Acres Campground is operated with a five-year plan in place to help ensure improvements are done in a timely manner.

His campground has limited sites for overnight visitors, and he is seeing a change in that business as well.

“We did well for overnight campers in January and February,” he added. “Which is typically not our peak season. We generally will see most of our nightly and weekly customers from June through September. We adjust the number of sites available according to the calendar. When demand is high, we can flip into an overnight customer. We’ve always done that since we began owning the park.

“We cater to retirees and traveling professionals and we also have a lot of folks in our park for business,” Davis noted. “A lot of people in the construction industry, project managers and folks that have an RV and they’ve got business here. Since the park is located close to the downtown area it’s attractive for them. We have students that come in and will stay for a semester. Then we have snowbirds during the winter months. We get people that live up in the higher elevations around Northern California that come and stay in the park during the winter months.”

He said the park is a bit different from those that cater to mostly overnight and short-term guests.

“It’s not your traditional RV park,” said Davis. “It’s very clean. We’ve got very strict rules on what you can have out on your pad. You could drive into our RV park and not know that 90% of the people are monthly because it’s not junky. That’s the way our customers like it.”

Davis noted that the park doesn’t offer bathrooms or showers.

“You have to be self-contained to camp here,” he said. “There’s no tent camping. It’s strictly for self-contained RVs. It’s a small community and everyone is happy. We have a waiting list to get in for extended stays.”

To keep the campground together on a day-to-day, frontline basis Davis has a resident manager couple that basically operate the park.

“I got lucky when we hired Rick and Danita,” Davis said. “I’m looking at hiring a groundskeeper and currently we are not having any labor issues. In fact, I just hired my first work camper to come in exchange for a full hookup campsite to help with the management of the park. It is all about finding good people that understand running a hospitality business, treat people fairly, but at the same time, know how to enforce the rules.”

Davis’ advice for anyone thinking about purchasing a small RV park is clear.

“Always be doing the right thing,” he concluded. “We’re in this because it’s a business and you’re in business to make money. Sometimes you just have to be smart about some of the decisions you make, with regard to doing what’s right for the customer. An example is how people were upset when they found out that we don’t issue refunds for cancellations. We tell folks, ‘If you cancel, you’re not going to get a refund, but you’re going to get a credit with the park to stay at a future date.’ That’s doing the right thing by people. Things happen on the road and we understand.”