Editor’s note: As WOODALLSCM.com (WCM) looks forward to 2022, the publication wanted to take a look back at some of the most popular stories from the past year. Over the next week or so WCM will be posting those stories as a way of highlighting important trends and news in the outdoor hospitality industry. WCM hopes you enjoy the look back and Happy Holidays!
The outdoor hospitality industry lost a longtime advocate and park owner when David L. Berg, co-owner of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, passed away suddenly at his winter home in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 3. Under his ownership, Red Apple Campground became a member of the Maine Campground Owners Association. David served on the association’s board since 2001, including two terms as president from 2003-2004 and again from 2011-12. At the national level, David served two terms on the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) Board of Directors (2004-2013 and 2016-2021) and was chairman from 2010-2011. ARVC took a moment to reflect on his passing during the association’s recent Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo in November.
Below is the full tribute to David Berg published last February.
The outdoor hospitality industry has lost an icon and all who knew him have lost a friend. David L. Berg (1957-2021), co-owner of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, passed away suddenly at his winter home in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 3. His wife, Jane, was by his side.
Born and raised in Aroostook County in northern Maine, often proudly claiming his birth connection to “the County,” David found campground ownership later in life after a full career as a photographer, police officer and both a union and management negotiator.
In 1997, he purchased what was known at the time as Fran Mort Campground in Kennebunkport and changed the name to Red Apple Campground in honor of his parents, who had owned and operated the “Red Apple Camps” in northern Maine for several decades.
He and Jane married in 2001 and together quickly developed the campground’s mission of “Clean, Quiet and Relaxing — The Way Camping Should Be,” creating a camper experience that was just that, picking up a 10 10* 10 Good Sam rating for the past 11 years consecutively.
David would regularly be seen driving the campground in his beloved 1948 Ford F-1 “Lobster Delivery Truck” delivering the catch of the day to hungry campers. He believed, “Every campground tries to have one special thing to set them apart from others. For us, it’s fresh Maine ‘Lobstahs’ delivered right to a camper’s site.”
He loved Red Apple’s campers. They were there for the experience, and he enjoyed giving exactly that to each of them. He was a people person who brought out the best in everyone around him and will be remembered fondly for his love of the industry and his overwhelming desire to see other campgrounds succeed.
“David was truly one of a kind,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). “When David was chairman of the ARVC Board of Directors back in 2010, he hired me as ARVC’s CEO, and we formed both a professional and personal relationship through the ensuing years that I will cherish forever. He cared for people and spoke often of the importance of industry unity. He mentored others, especially those that were younger, spoke his mind in a way people respected, and was one of the most charitable persons I’ve ever known. David and Jane will always be bonded in heart and spirit. I loved him as a brother.”
ARVC’s immediate past chair, Al Johnson, executive vice president of development and public affairs for Recreational Adventures Co., which owns numerous Kampgrounds of America Inc. parks throughout the United States, explained that David’s leadership set ARVC on a path to stability as an organization.
“Thank God for David. At a time of transition and lack of direction in the campground industry and ARVC, his boundless energy and active wit brought stability and direction,” he said. “As chairman of ARVC, he set us on a road that has led to both financial and influential strength that were out of reach before. More than that, he continued to share his talents for the industry wherever he could do the most good — on the ARVC Board, the ARVC Foundation, the Public Affairs Committee, the annual auction. Even with his intellect and energy, he served humbly. He found humor all around. And he found ways to negotiate the most gnarly problem when there seemed to be no way. I drew encouragement and insight from him throughout my leadership time. I would ask myself “What would David L. Berg do?” or I would simply call him and ask. Now I can’t. It feels to me like a little bit of energy and light have left the world. I am grateful to God for the impact of David L. Berg to me personally and to the greater camping enterprise.”
David spent many years volunteering tirelessly helping other park owners directly and held numerous leadership positions in industry associations at the state, regional and national levels.
Under his ownership, Red Apple Campground became a member of the Maine Campground Owners Association. David served on the association’s board since 2001, including two terms as president from 2003-2004 and again from 2011-12.
“David’s legacy of passion, leadership, dedication, and commitment to the success of all RV parks and campgrounds, as well as to the entire tourism industry, will live on forever,” said Kathy Dyer, executive director of the Maine Campground Owners Association. “David was a gift to this Industry and to all of the hearts he touched day in and day out.”
For so many in Maine, and across the country, David was more than a friend — he was a mentor who wanted to see them and their campground business to be more successful.
“There are no words that describe the impact David has had on my life,” noted Todd Southwick, owner of Kokatosi Campground in Raymond, Maine. “David was and still is a mentor and sometimes a father figure and most of all a friend. Because of the time and effort, he has put into the camping industry, he will be sadly missed by me and many.”
“David wasn’t driven to succeed in business for his own ego. He was driven to succeed so he could help others and see them succeed,” said Lucas Hartford, former owner of insurance provider Evergreen USA, based in Lewiston, Maine. “He loved to make other people happy. Berg had a heart as big as his booming voice. He wanted to help bring joy to the lives of all of those around him — whether he touched their hearts for seconds or decades — he wanted to make people, all people, happier in life. He wanted to make people better people.”
His service to campgrounds in the Northeast region began in 2005 when David joined the board of the Northeast Campground Association (NCA) and he served that organization in many capacities for the past 16 years, including once as president from 2009-2010 and twice as vice president from 2005-2009 and again from 2018-2021.
“David was there for his friends and peers. He brought out the best in those he was around and truly cared about what was happening in our lives. He looked out for the industry; always searching for the next person that should be invited to take part in a board or a committee,” said Cyndy Zbierski, executive director of the Northeast Campground Association. “Volunteering his time was important to him. I can only imagine what he did to help those in his own communities in Maine and Florida — using the example he set at the state, regional and national level of the camping industry over the past nineteen years.”
Doris Daniels, longtime NCA member and co-owner of Normandy Farms Family Campground in Foxboro, Mass., hopes David’s legacy will inspire random acts of kindness that would have made him proud.
“David will always be remembered as the one with a great story, filled with humor, making everyone smile and feel comfortable,” she said. “Great people never die, as they live on in our hearts forever. I hope he can sprinkle his kindness down on everyone from the heavens above and it will inspire random acts of kindness from everyone as we pay it forward in his name!”
At the national level, David served two terms on the ARVC Board of Directors (2004-2013 and 2016-2021) and was chairman from 2010-2011.
“I was at an ARVC conference with my teenage son in 2010 when David was the ARVC chair,” said Peter Brown, owner of Lone Oak Campsites in East Canaan, Conn., and ARVC’s current chair. “David gave a speech at the awards banquet that I’ll never forget. He talked about our industry with amazing passion. He made everyone in the room feel so good about what we do. It was obvious my son was deeply affected by that speech, because when David was done my son turned to me and very seriously said, ‘I want to be chairman of ARVC someday.'”
Past ARVC Chairs Kathy Palmeri (2003-2004) and Rob Schutter (2012-2013) remember David as someone who gave selflessly and made a lasting impact on our industry.
“David was an industry giant,” said Palmeri, former owner of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-resort of Estes in Estes Park, Colo. “He gave not only his time but his whole heart and soul to the RV and camping industry.”
“When I think of contributors to this industry,” said Rob Schutter, president of Leisure Systems Inc, “the name David L. Berg, will always be at the top of my list. I have never met anyone as passionate, giving, or committed to our industry on the local, state, and national levels as DLB. He was a true friend, mentor, and an example for all of us to follow.”
David had a passion specifically for advocacy, serving as chair of ARVC’s Public Affairs Committee since 2018 and traveling each year to Washington D.C. to meet face to face with legislators about the value of our industry.
“David was one of the most insightful, compassionate, and humorous industry leaders I have had the privilege to work with in my career,” said Jeff Sims, ARVC Chair from 1997-1998 and current senior director of state relations and program advocacy. “He was the epitome of the ultimate volunteer. As my colleague, we had great conversations together as we walked the halls on Capitol Hill. As my friend, we discussed everything under the sun. As he prepared to adjourn the most recent Public Affairs Committee meeting on Jan. 19, he made this request: ‘My hope for 2021 is a kinder, gentler attitude toward our fellow man. Let’s focus on that.’”
He also served as vice-chairman of the ARVC Foundation Board of Trustees from 2017-2019. His legacy of serving the ARVC community was cemented in 2013 when he was awarded the organization’s highest honor, the prestigious Stan Martin Memorial Award. The ARVC Foundation honored him in 2019 with its highest honor, the Herb Strauss Award.
None of the volunteer work he did was ever accompanied by expectation of recognition though. He once said, “I was raised to do something for others just because you can, and not to expect something in return. My goal has always been to work as part of a team to make our industry stronger.”
All those who knew him would agree he did just that.
As word has spread about his passing, members of the industry from across the country have expressed their deep admiration for David and praised his character.
Randy Packard, ARVC Chair from 2001-2002 and his wife, Denise, owners of Pine Acres Family Camping Resort in Oakham, Mass., say “David’s loss has saddened our campground owner’s world. He was so well-liked and a passionate member of our associations, serving in many capacities — MECOA, NCA and ARVC. We have many fun memories of the NCA and ARVC fundraising auctions where David would have you bidding against yourself if you weren’t careful, or he could get you to bid on something you didn’t need. But, for David, it was always about helping out. We became good friends with David and Jane and enjoyed their company many times. David’s quick wit and entertaining ways (he was always ready with a good clean joke) always made you feel part of the group. He will be greatly missed by all.”
Judy LaPorta, owner of Little Oaks Campground in Cape May Court House, New Jersey and an ARVC Board Member, noted “Many years ago, I was mesmerized from afar of David L Berg as an ARVC Board Member. He was a member whose every word oozed of his passion for the industry. I heard he had a winter home in Naples, and I was going to be in Naples that winter so via email invited him and Jane to join me for lunch. At the time, he had no idea who I was, and I had never met Jane, but the Berg’s accepted my invitation and asked for the address. From the moment I opened that door and before we ever sat down to have lunch the friendships took hold, and the bond grew stronger and stronger. Thank you, David, for accepting my invitation to lunch and for your love. Thank you, Jane, for sharing David with all of us, and know you have my hugs forever.”
Tim Deputy, former ARVC Chair (2016-2017), said “Most people talk about enhancing the lives of others, David lived it. His commitment to the happiness of everyone was inspiring.”
Tim’s wife, Deirdre Deputy, said “It was rare to leave David’s presence without both of you laughing. During one of my training sessions, he noticed that some of the attendees were having difficulty with my South African accent and terminology, so he took it upon himself to translate in his strongest Maine accent. Everyone had a good laugh.”
Lucas Hartford, the former owner of insurance provider Evergreen USA, based in Lewiston, Maine, said “David was not the easiest man to know either professionally or as a friend. But the best things in life never come easy and knowing him is one of the most wonderful things one could have happen in their life. If you were a service provider of David’s you knew he could negotiate with you until you were exhausted – but he always did it respectfully and in the end, he was more appreciative than anyone to be working with you. As a customer of David’s, you knew you needed to follow his rules — but he was the epitome of great customer service and always made your camping experience amazing. And as a friend of David’s, you knew he demanded the best from you — but he would always give you his all, and his all was a lot!
“He was a force to be reckoned with,” Hartford continues. “But his force was always working for the betterment of every individual he met, the betterment of the camping industry, and the betterment of all people. Everyone who met David could tell stories about what a great negotiator he was, his successes as an advocate for the camping industry, how he and his loving wife Jane turned an ‘okay’ campground into a premier campground or the many victories he had for campground associations. But none of those things are a surprise because David was a man who was focused, passionate, hard-working, straightforward, and driven — all things that not only brought him successes in life but showered others with the benefits of his hard work.
But David’s many career successes are not a surprise because he put in 110% every single second of the day. What is a surprise, is that once you spent a little time with David you learned about what drove him. David wasn’t driven to succeed in business for his own ego. He was driven to succeed so he could help others and see them succeed. He loved to make other people happy. Berg had a heart as big as his booming voice. He wanted to help bring joy to the lives of all of those around him – whether he touched their hearts for seconds or decades – he wanted to make people, all people, happier in life. He wanted to make people better people. His passion to help others was likely there for his entire life, extending through his career as a police officer, and continuing with his passion to improve the camping industry. David gave one-hundred-fold more in this life than he ever received, and that is the way he wanted it.
His drive to bring happiness to others was only multiplied by the fact that his partner, his wife, the love of his life, Jane, shares this passion. While Jane wasn’t as vocal in public (no one was as vocal in public as David) she and David were a team. They worked every day to make the lives of their friends, their campers, their fellow campground owners, and everyone they touched much happier. They are givers. David’s loss is a loss for humanity. He was never sheepish about sharing his love with those he knew. As the rest of us are left to move through this world without him we know he had a personality that will live on in everyone he touched. Every day people will be working to make other people happier — inspired by David and his passion for making people happy.”
Mark Anderson, ARVC Chair from 2008-2009 and owner of Camp Chautauqua in Stow, New York, said, “At the very first David and I did not see eye to eye, but after so many years of association, I came to respect his views even though some of them differed from my own. In the end, I must say I have not known many, if any, more dedicated to his profession or to the campground industry as a whole. His tenure serving Maine, the Northeast Campground Association and ARVC, most certainly give testament to that. I am proud to say that we grew to call each other friend.”
Lee Worcester, owner of Smugglers Den Campground in Southwest Harbor, Maine, said “When I think of David Berg, I think of a friend, family, campground owner, leader, mentor, advisor, negotiator, auctioneer and philanthropist. These qualities David had hands down along with Stuffed Sheep…bah bah, blue tarps and a 1948 red Ford pickup!”
Some of David’s other accomplishments in the industry include:
2019—Award of Gratitude, ARVC Foundation
2017—Top 11 Family-Friendly Parks in the United States, US News and World Report
2017—Governors Award for Leadership and Industry Growth, State of Maine
2015—Above and Beyond Award, The ARVC Foundation
2013—The Curtis Fuller Service Award, Northeast Campground Association (NCA)
2013—Chairman’s Award, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
2013—Outstanding Service Award, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
2007—Richard A. Hartford – Kenneth R. Griffin Award, Maine Campground Owners Association
2003—Campground Owners of the Year Award, Maine Campground Owners Association