Kicking off your summer reading

How better to kick off the summer than with a new book about RVing and camping?

Yup–this is a commercial, so if you’re tired of being assailed by sales pitches (I know I am!) keep scrolling down to the next post. On the other hand, if you’ve ever thought you might want to own and operate your own RV park and campground . . . well! (drumroll, please): Turning Dirt: A step-by-step guide for turning dreams of campground ownership into reality, is being released Tuesday, the first day of summer.

That follows the publication last October of Renting Dirt, a rear view-mirror look at our family’s eight years of trials and tribulations in running a medium-sized campground in the Shenandoah Valley. Turning Dirt, on the other hand, is very much a forward-looking, step-by-step guide for anyone undeterred by my earlier warnings and determined to find, buy and operate a campground anyway. It’s straightforward, objective and non-judgmental, but also uncompromising in raising issues and asking questions that anyone about to sink their life savings into a such a venture should address.

Laid out in three distinct sections, Turning Dirt leads off with a consideration of current market conditions, which are unlike any seen prior to 2020. Much of that is a direct result of the pandemic, which generated a tsunami of new RVers, a mixed blessing at best: lots of money rolling in, but also lots of customers who don’t know what they’re doing–which means lots more work for campground owners. Yet that’s accompanied by another pandemic-related development, an enormous labor shortfall, which has meant even more work for those still plugging away.

And there’s more. All the additional business has caught the attention of investors who had long ignored this niche investment category, and who don’t give a blip about “the great outdoors” or feel-good sentiments about Mother Nature, but who readily recognize when there’s a buck to be made. That fresh investment focus has profoundly disrupted the market, driving up campground prices to unsustainable levels–even as rising interest rates and higher gas prices foreshadow the possibility of the bubble bursting.

For those unfazed by such developments, however, this first section explores several fundamental choices that should precede any search: what kind of campground, where in the country, franchise or independent? Turning Dirt then moves on to a pivotal second section, which describes how best to structure a search for the “right” property, how to evaluate prospects and, ultimately, how to proceed with an offer. A substantial portion of this section discusses various aspects of a proper due diligence, supplemented by appendices that include an inspection checklist and a description of a purchase agreement.

Most books on this subject–and there aren’t many–pretty much wrap it up at this point. Turning Dirt’s third and final section, on the other hand, pushes past the closing to explore various aspects of campground operation that are unique to the industry. Occupancy rates, fee structures, seasonal employees, the different kinds of campers–all are discussed in depth, followed by a checklist of issues most other businesses never have to consider, including fire pits, bed bugs and golf cars.

As just mentioned, there aren’t many books on this subject–it has, after all, a rather limited audience–but I can honestly say I’ve read most of them. And I can honestly say that Turning Dirt is better than any of them. Don’t believe me? Order a copy on this website, or online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or wherever you buy your books, and after reading it let me know what else you’ve read on the subject that rates more highly–if you honestly can.

Hey! Like I said at the outset–it’s a commercial. My next post will resume my usual curmudgeonly take on things. Meanwhile, have a great summer.

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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