Owning a campground can be a great investment.
According to Go Downsize, “RV park owners usually generate about 10-30% of returns on their investment for an RV park,” and in some cases owning a campground can be an investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, building out a campground is not cheap, meaning that in order to find success, you need a clear plan and a healthy understanding of what goes into designing a park.
Here’s an overview of how to design a campground.
1. Visit other RV parks.
Start with some first-hand research.
Visiting neighboring campgrounds and taking inventory of what they’re doing helps you create a clearer picture of what works and what you’d like to implement with your park.
These are a few questions to consider when visiting another campground:
- What are the average lengths of their sites?
- How much space do they leave between sites?
- Do they angle their sites?
- How many sites are back in or pull through?
- How many of their sites are RV sites vs. tent sites?
- How wide are the roads leading to the sites?
- Are the roads one way?
- Where are their buildings located?
Jot down any notes and take pictures, so you can compare and come up with a general idea of what you want to incorporate into your RV park.
2. Get an idea of what you want in a park.
Before you even connect with a contractor, it’s important to identify what you want to include in the design of your park. While professionals will be able to craft your ideas into a workable design, it’s still important to bring your own expectations to the table.
Start with asking yourself a few questions.
What’s your niche?
Identify what type of campground you want to be and who you want to cater towards.
- Are you more focused on seasonal business, or overnight stays?
- Do you want to have solely full-hookups or do you want to include tent sites and primitive RV sites?
- Do you want to include glamping options?
- Do you want to attract families, remote workers, retirees, or weekend campers?
Having a good what type of guests you’re trying to appeal to will give you a better idea of how to build out your design.
How many sites do you want?
Considering that it can cost anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000 for every site you build out you’ll likely want to be strategic in your approach.
Related Article: How much does it cost to start a campground?
What buildings or amenities should you include?
Having the right amenities adds tremendous value to your park and can be the difference between whether or not guests visit again.
For instance, campground owners we talk to think they need to pay $50,000+ to install a pool in their campground, but according to our survey, campers don’t rank a pool in their top 10 favorite campground amenities.
Think through what campers are actually looking for, and how you can create a more unique experience.
3. Hire a design group.
Before you build anything out, you’ll need a blueprint.
So, once you have an idea of what you want out of your campground, you’ll want to bring in a design group to render a mapped-out overview of the project.
Companies like Outdoor Design Group have a unique understanding of the outdoor hospitality industry and know how to design a campground. They offer services like land development, planning, or site renovations and providing clear overlays of essential amenities like lighting or irrigation.
A design group will save you money and headaches by navigating costly setbacks and providing a clear picture to communicate to the contractor, all while trying to honor your original vision.
4. Hire a contractor.
Contractors are essentially a one-stop-shop for building out your campground, as they’re basically project managers.
Whether it’s handling permits, perc tests, or navigating zoning restrictions, a contractor will work closely with your design group to build out your campground.
According to Angie’s List, “in most cases, a general contractor will charge between 10 and 20% of the total job” (including the costs of permits, materials, and subcontractors). They also advise that you try and avoid working with any contractors that charge by the hour ($50-$100 on average), “because most [will] drag a job out to get the most money possible.”
5. Factor in additional considerations.
After you’ve envisioned your campground, mapped out your park, and consulted a contractor, you’ll need to get granular and address some of the details of setting up your park.
Here are a few things to keep top of mind.
Before breaking ground, you’ll need to make sure your campground goes through the proper channels to get approved.
What permits will you need to get started? Are there any environmental concerns in the area? Any restrictions to navigate?
The costs for permits vary depending upon region or municipality, so it’s helpful to connect with local campground associations and zoning boards to better understand restrictions or what’s expected in your area. Your contractor will generally have a good understanding of what to look for, but it’s still good to brush up on local regulations.
Also, if you have a zoning commissioner, they’ll get involved one way or another, so it’s a good idea to bring them in early to create an ally in the process to help you in your research the area. Not to mention, they’ll know what the available municipal services are, or if there are any environmental buffer zones, restrictions, or easily accessible roads to be aware of.
Before installing your septic system, you’ll need to know where the lowest point of your campground is, as this is where you’ll want your leach field to drain.
Considering that the bottom of the leach field trenches should be about four feet above the ground (at a minimum), you need to account for natural fluctuation in groundwater levels. The last thing you want is to mix drainage with electrical wires, or anything that could be damaged by the runoff.
A septic system for campgrounds starts around $40,000, and Angie’s List says that on average, a new leach field is commonly between $2,500 and $5,000. However, considering the financial headache drainage can cause, it’s definitely a good investment.
Cut down the fewest trees possible
According to our survey, campers love trees, ranking them as the third most important amenity a campground can provide, behind only WiFi and natural views.
While there are certain environmental implications, trees give campers shade and privacy, and nothing says camping like plants—especially when they reflect the local flora of your area.
Plus planting trees is quite economical. Between Earth Day promotions and Arbor Day giveaways, there are opportunities to get free trees. You could even make it an event where you get campers to help plant them in exchange for discounted rates.
From design to reality.
Building out a campground can be a great investment, so long as you take the right steps. Before you get too deep into the weeds, make sure you take the proper steps to give yourself the best chance at success.
- Visit other parks and see how they’ve set up their campground.
- Envision and roughly layout what you want in your RV park.
- Hire a design group to create a project blueprint that visualizes your idea.
- Hire a contractor (who charges by the project) to be your project manager.
- Handle the due diligence when it comes to zoning, drainage, local flora, and environmental considerations.
Once you’ve thought through and carefully crafted out your campground design, you’ll be ready to break ground and start bringing your vision to life.
Once you’ve built out your campground, make sure you have the right team supporting you. Campground Booking brings RV parks a 25% increase in reservation volume. Request a demo today!