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Old 08-12-2019, 04:45 AM   #1
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Considering Campground Location - Near Interstate or not?

I own several properties near I-81 in Tennessee. I am thinking about building a campground.

One property is less 1/2 mile from the exit on the interstate and the other is 7 miles from the interstate. The one 1/2 mile from the exit is relatively flat and it has 4000' of road frontage on a major highway, city water and sewer close by, a Pilot and TA truck-stop at the same exit along with a few eating establishments. There are also 2 other campgrounds, one being a KOA. Both seem to always be filled to capacity. It is fenced and has a pond and a large creek down the middle of the property.

My other property is located 7 miles off this same exit. It is remote, but it has FAR more to offer. The lower portion is relatively flat. It has several spring fed creeks and 2 ponds. It is fenced and has horse stables for 15 or so horses along with a riding ring. The views are absolutely stunning. The mountain side on the back goes up 1000 feet in elevation so there is plenty of hiking, biking, atv riding, horseback riding potential.

My question is this: What would attract more campers? Convenience to the interstate or more things to do at the campsite? Both are 180 acres or better in size.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:58 AM   #2
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Well as retiree's we would rather the more remote campground. Less traffic and truck noise. We love looking at country with character.
It comes down to what kind of guests are you looking for. On the hussle 1 night runners, heading for destination X or weekend warriors there for the weekend lits of kids, or the weeklong or longer touring bunch usually retiree's? Once you understand your desired guests picking which property gets easier.
You will still get a mix of campers but which group are you targeting?
Just our 1/2 cent

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Old 08-12-2019, 06:56 AM   #3
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I agree with RoadrunnerII, it depends on what type of camper you want to cater to. Plus you have to look very closely at how much you want to invest into each property for roads, site development, water and electrical line hookups. Are you going to put in sewer lines or on site holding tanks? If not then you'll need a dump station. Both sewer/on site tanks and dump stations are going to require maintainance too, You're going to have to build restrooms, an office, playground and maybe a pavilion and/or pool. You will have to hire staff to run the place when you're not there. And you'll need to advertise. It's a business and you'll have to spend a healthy amount to get things up and running.

Easy interstate access is great for the people passing through. That's why KOA's are so close to the 'I' system. But 7 miles off the interstate isn't too bad either. Personally I'd rather drive 7 miles to a campground that has less freeway noise and gas station/truck stop traffic. I think the second location might be a place that seasonal campers would enjoy. Having worked at a private campground for 9 years we found seasonal campers much less maintainance. They have a sense of pride in not only their own campsite but the whole place in general. Plus you know who your clientel are and are more likely going to renew for the next season guaranteeing you income. Or you could go both seasonal and over night route.

Whatever you decide I wish you luck and success.
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:24 AM   #4
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Roadrunner II and Wiscampsin,

Which campers would you target?

Alan
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:24 AM   #5
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To me it depends a lot on locale too. Near what city? How far from Bristol? Are the other two CG's located along the Interstate or remote such as your 2nd choice. Are you going independent or franchise. What percentage would you like for overnight vs seasonal? Do you plan on having some sites available all year? (heated water spigots and bath house)

When we traveled if anything was more than 1 to 1 1/2 miles from the X-way I would avoid it, the closer the better. If we were spending time in the area 7 miles would not be an issue. If you're in the right locale you could attract clubs and rallies so a large shelter or enclosed bldg would be an attraction.

IF you are looking to franchise, then KOA and Leisure Systems (YOGI BEAR) would probably help do a marketing study. Even though there is already a KOA in the area they now have 3 classes, Resort, Holiday and Journey with the first two being more long term.
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:38 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Clayduster71 View Post
Roadrunner II and Wiscampsin,

Which campers would you target?

Alan
Personally I'd go after a mix starting with 1/2 seasonal and 1/2 overnight. You could always convert the over night sites into seasonal sites as demand increases. And remember you can always rent a seasonal site to overnighters if it's not under contract as a seasonal. The campground I worked at has 120 sites and 4 rental cabins. Of the 130 sites about 45 were overnight sites 11 years ago, today only 15 overnight sites remain. One more thing, I'd recommend keeping the seasonal and overnight sites separated if possible. And go to several campgrounds and ask for a copy of their contracts.
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:06 AM   #7
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I'm with Grumpy here. If only for a night you'd have to be close to the Interstate. Longer? Seven miles wouldn't an issue.

We stayed in a beautiful CG for three nights last spring right on I95 in Selma NC. Road noise was loud 24 hours/day as the Interstate was uphill causing the big rigs to downshift. And to add to our fun, there was an active RR in back of the CG with regular trains running at 2AM and 6AM.

Perhaps you'll check the Interstate grade in front of your site?

Good luck with your project!
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:41 AM   #8
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What Is the draw to the area.. 7 miles off the interstate will not draw those that are just passing through. If there is no draw to the area, other than the campground, than I would vote for the one closest to the interstate. A seasonal with minimal draw in the area will be difficult over the long term to rent.


Also have you checks zoning codes? It's not easy to build a campground in many areas. Also it can be very expensive, pushing 6 digits per campsite when all is said and done.


Get a good campground architect and engineer to do some preliminary plans that you can get some costs from. The cost is what is keeping many from building a campground, it can take years even when full, to become profitable.


Good Luck.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:03 PM   #9
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I would like to see a CG that leases it's sites to seasonal campers with large remote sites that have full hook-up. Those that travel for half a day to get to the area want no hassles when they arrive, and also want to know that their site is secure while not there. There may be a model to follow that I'm not aware of. The sites would be large enough to have a little bit of buffer between them such as a few trees. Grass would be cut as an option while away. Just my .02 worth.
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:32 PM   #10
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I would suggest you figure out what would draw campers to your location. Like any real estate.... Location, location.
Are you close to attractions, if so are they child or adult oriented.
If your highway exit is only a passing thru and nothing close then seasonal are your bread and butter.

Just my opinion

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Old 08-12-2019, 09:07 PM   #11
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"Which campers would you target?"

All the privately owned campgrounds around this state need a percentage of seasonal campers to stay alive. I've been to a couple that have steadily increasing the number of seasonal sites, since the transients aren't enough to keep them full. One in particular now has only 8 or 10 open sites, and I won't go there anymore, because it's like we're encroaching on THEIR space.


A second one was going to open near their home, and the village folks shot them down on a vote, saying too much traffic/smoke/noise. The great thing is a neighboring town actually invited them to open up there, and it now is a nice place that we've stayed at several times now.....BUT, the last time there, we saw another section intended for the seasonal folks. (A sidebar to them, ALL the seasonal folks there are very nice and friendly. The owner insists on that, without exception),

If you can survive on short stay camping, I think that would be great. Perhaps there's a lot more RV traffic passing by your properties, due to it's location.

Personally, I have no preference to one being extremely close to an interstate or not. It just has to be a nice campground.


It might be an idea to talk to some of the other owners, and find out what hoops, if any, they had to jump through to establish their campgrounds.

Just ramblin' on, sorry.
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:30 PM   #12
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I don't think 7 miles off the interstate is too far to drive. I tend to camp short-term, like 2 and 3 night stays to go kayaking & hiking with my dogs so I'm usually looking for CG's that are close to water (river/lake). I feel much more relaxed when I'm away from the noise & traffic of an interstate and able to enjoy views that are pretty & scenic.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:24 PM   #13
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My thought is save that interstate frontage for a real heavy hitter developer and use the remote land for the rv park.
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