Jack and Nancy Paulsen were looking for a getaway spot, not a place to park their RV. In fact, they didn’t have an RV. But they do now. The Omaha couple bought one to put on the lot they purchased at the Wilds, a new luxury RV development near Bartlett, Iowa, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Some of the lots on the bank of the Missouri River have landscaped paths down to the water. By next year, when construction and landscaping are scheduled to be complete, the $5 million resort also will have a nine-hole golf course, clubhouse and wilderness park with a walking trail, said the project’s lead developer, Faron McFarland of Brookings, S.D.
Among the requirements specified by the Wild’s covenants:
• Class A or Class C motorhomes or towable vehicles 24 feet or longer.
• Vehicle generally must be no older than 10 years.
• Lot improvements must include a concrete pad and lawn irrigation system.
• Pets must be leashed or otherwise confined when not in the RVs and may be exercised only in certain designated areas.
Although McFarland’s development appears to be a first for the Midlands, he predicts it will succeed despite the limitation on outdoor activity during winter.
Nancy Sothan, co-owner of Apache Camper Center in Bellevue, Iowa, said several of her customers have purchased lots at the Wilds.
“If you look at it, it’s really no different than buying a cabin at the lake, except that you have a camper you can bring anywhere you want,” she said.
Today there are about 8,500 privately owned parks and campgrounds nationwide and another 8,000 public parks. “Luxury” versions can be found all over the country, according to Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), but the number is hard to estimate because what constitutes a luxury development is not clearly defined.
The number increases every year, she said, a reflection of the popularity of RVs and of comfort-conscious Baby Boomers and even people in their 30s.
McFarland said he was attracted by what he saw as an under-served market.
There are 136,000 registered RVs within a two-hour drive of the Wilds, he said. Vehicles that meet his covenant requirements number about 35,000.
The approximately 75-acre development has 40 riverfront lots, 110 lots that will border the golf course and 40 lots with a river view. Prices range from $12,500 for river-view lots to $35,000 for lots on the riverbank.
McFarland said he started selling the riverfront lots first, about eight weeks ago, and half have been purchased. He has built homes on the water before, but the Wilds is his first RV community, he said.
Last week, as workers groomed the riverbank to create a sandy beach, McFarland roamed the property in a golf cart, checking on construction progress. Trees were being planted as well as cut down, although McFarland said he wants to save as many trees as possible to retain the area’s natural beauty.
Fremont County Engineer Dan Davis said he was familiar with high-end RV parks when McFarland approached local officials about getting zoning approval for the project.
“I think Fremont County needs that type of development,” said Davis, adding that some Bartlett residents saw the resort as a potential economic boost.
The Fremont County Board approved the development by a vote of 2 to 1, provided that McFarland obtained the necessary permits.
Supervisor John Whipple said there was wide support for the project.
“It will bring people into the county, maybe take advantage of some of the sights and stuff we’ve got,” Whipple said.
McFarland said he got the last of his permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and Iowa Department of Natural Resources about eight weeks ago, just before buyers started closing on lots. It was a 15-month process, he said.
He said he will require that owners of lots in danger of flooding remove their RVs when the river reaches a certain level.
“We ask the owners to evacuate their own, just to save time, but we have keys to everything,” he said. “Every one of our homeowners has agreed . . . that’s part of our contract.”
Jack Paulsen, the Omaha retiree who paid $34,000 for his lot, already is calling the development a success. He said he wanted a nice place nearby that he could visit anytime he wanted.
“How can a person go wrong buying good-quality land right on the river?” Paulsen said.
“Beautiful view, beautiful setting. . . . I bought the land first, then I went and bought the RV to put on it.”