Few people can appreciate the potential impact of the million dollar renovation of Palm Canyon Resort & RV Park on Borrego Springs, Calif., more than Fred Jee.
A 38-year Borrego Springs resident, Jee has spent most of his adult life promoting the eastern San Diego County community as a tourist destination, including 34 years as a ranger and supervisor at neighboring Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and two years as chairman of the annual Borrego Springs Film Festival, which takes place every January, according to a news release.
“Palm Canyon Resort is in a very strategic location,” he said. “It’s the first thing you’re going to see when you get into town and it’s the last thing you’re going to see when you leave.”
Indeed, the 61-room hotel and associated 103-site RV campground are located on a prominent intersection on the west side of town where State Route 22 becomes Palm Canyon Drive, the main road in downtown Borrego Springs.
“It’s important to have Palm Canyon Resort looking good,” Jee said.
It hasn’t always been that way.
Before the property was acquired by new owners last summer, the hotel and RV park had been owned and operated by a series of different owners and had fallen into disrepair.
In fact, the rooms were in such bad shape that Shirley Grear, the hotel’s general manager, refused a request by the Borrego Chamber of Commerce to host a group of travel and tourism reporters there. If they had came, Grear said, the outcome would not have been pretty.
It’s a different story now.
With more than $1 million in improvements, Palm Canyon Resort has been transformed from a bland collection of five sandstone colored buildings into an eye-catching resort with each building featuring a different desert-friendly shade of blue, green, red, rust or yellow.
The resort’s campground also now features the addition of vintage Airstream and “Canned Ham” trailer rentals, which appeal to couples and families looking for a unique vacation experience. In fact, the improvements have not only changed the image of Palm Canyon Resort, but could help boost the appeal of Borrego Springs itself as a tourist destination.
“The place looks beautiful,” Linda Haddock, executive director of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, said of the improvements at Palm Canyon Resort. “It’s only going to make people more confident that Borrego Springs is the place to come and stay overnight.”
Jee said the improvements will likely have a ripple effect across Borrego Springs. “If the new owners are really serious about making the hotel a success, which they are, it will have a nice fallout effect on everyone,” he said.
Indeed, Jee said Palm Canyon Resort will actually raise the bar and put pressure on other hotels and campgrounds to make additional improvements, which will further increase Borrego Springs’ appeal as a tourism destination.
The timing, he added, is terrific, since the Palm Canyon Resort improvements are being completed before the 48th annual Borrego Days Desert Festival, an Oct. 25 – 27 event that includes a parade, craft fair, live music, a small air show and other activities.
The festival typically attracts people from the coast who have never visited Borrego Springs before or learned of its many local attractions, which include a 9 hole championship golf course at The Springs at Borrego as well as an 18-hole Par 3 golf course at the Roadrunner Club. Other attractions include horseback riding and jeep tours and Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which offers numerous hiking trails and canyons in addition to some of California’s best spring wildflower displays.
Other upcoming events include Nightfall, which will take place at Palm Canyon Resort from Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.
“During Nightfall, we turn all of the lights on property either out or change the bulbs to red,” said Grear. “We provide a unique experience with unusually dark skies, hotel rooms, a restaurant and bar. If the skies are right, the amateur astronomers are out all night and many of them allow visitors to peer through their telescopes.”
Other upcoming events include the Borrego Springs Film Festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 23-26, and a concert by the Kingston Trio on Jan. 13 at the DreamWeaver Amphitheatre at The Springs at Borrego.
Borrego Springs is also considered one of the top spots in the nation for stargazing. It remains the only city in California to be named an official Dark Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association.
“We want people to know they can come down here and play and plan to make it not just a day trip, but a destination,” Haddock said.