Editor’s Note: Kitty Winship is the Area 1 Representative on the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (National ARVC) Board of Directors. Winship is the second-generation owner of Papoose Pond Family Campground & Cabins in Waterford, Maine. She grew up in the camping industry, is the president of the Maine Campground Owners Association (MECOA), treasurer of the Northeast Campground Association (NCA), and represents Maine on the NCA scholarship fund committee.
Below is a Q&A that she did with National ARVC.
How did you get started in the campground industry?
My parents, Herb and Lois Strauss, bought our campground in 1982 before I was born and so I was basically born into the campground world. Both of my parents were very active in the industry, so growing up, we would go to conventions and all of the meetings. My Dad was on the MECOA, NCA and ARVC boards at various times throughout my childhood, so I just grew up being surrounded by all of these influential campground owners who were really involved in the industry and on the cutting edge of whatever the campground industry was doing at the time. My Dad was also one of the founders of the National School of RV Park and Campground Management. ARVC has an award named after him now called the Herb Strauss Education Award.
Did you work at the campground when you were growing up?
Yes, I did. I worked in a number of different departments, mainly in activities and in the office, but I did have other jobs outside of the campground growing up, as well. I think it’s important for any multigenerational campground business to have family members go out and work at another business, even if it’s another campground that’s not your own family’s. I think it gives you a lot of perspective on how to be a good employee and how the work world really works.
Given your background, did you always plan on having a career in the industry?
No, I never actually intended to go into the camping industry. My passion was really in teaching. That’s what I went to school for and I taught elementary school in Florida. And then, as my husband and I got older and we had our son, we thought it would be really nice to be around family more and to have a little bit more control over our schedule. Growing up on a campground was just such a great experience for me that we were excited about being able to give that experience to our son. So in 2013, we moved back to Maine to start the process of taking over the family business and in 2016, we purchased the park.
Have you made improvements to the park since then?
The campground was amazing when we bought it. My parents were really invested in making it as good as it could be, so the improvements we’ve made have been keeping in the same vein. We put in Wi-Fi throughout the whole park and we moved to a fully-online reservation system. We’ve also replaced a lot of the older buildings and added a lot of boats like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to our boat livery.
Tell us about your involvement in the industry and why it is so important to you.
I have been on the MECOA board since 2018 and I was honored to recently be elected president. I was also chosen to represent the state of Maine for NCA, and this year, I was elected treasurer. I feel it’s really important to give back to the industry and that the more involved you are the better you have your finger on the pulse of what is going on. You get back so much more than you put in. David Berg, the owner of Red Apple Campground, who recently passed away, was a huge member of MECOA. One of the biggest things that he always told campground owners is that you get 10 times more back than what you put into the industry and that the more involved you can be, the more it makes your own campground better.