On average, a commercial RV park or campground goes up for sale after only seven years. Why is that? What is it that drives the owners of these bucolic properties to throw in the towel after such a short time?
Renting Dirt, which went on sale October 11, 2021, is a frank look at my family’s experience in owning and operating a mid-size campground in the Shenandoah Valley and the reasons why a supposedly idyllic lifestyle isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
There’s the workload. That’s always been enormous, of course, but exponentially more so over the past couple of years because of the explosion in pandemic-driven interest in camping. At the same time, the labor shortage that has overwhelmed virtually every service-sector industry has afflicted RV parks as well, leaving their operators in an exhausting bind.
There’s also the huge increase in first-time campers, many of whom have never previously driven or hauled anything approaching the size of the RVs they’re now piloting. Much property destruction can and does ensue. Moreover, all those new RVers are strangers to campground etiquette and standards of behavior, and in their ignorance, aggravate campground operators and seasoned RVers alike.
And all that, on top of the usual stresses and strains of running a hospitality business, comes just as growing numbers of big money investors have concluded that RV parks are the next hot thing in real estate investment. As a result, campgrounds that once took upwards of two years to find a buyer are new selling like hotcakes, creating a huge amount of industry churn and consolidation.
A cautionary tale for those who have dreamed of operating their own business in a natural setting, Renting Dirt is quite unlike any of the other books out there–and they’re few in number–about campground ownership. It’s also a behind-the-scenes eye-opener for anyone who camps in an RV, as well as an unsettling foretaste of what camping’s future looks like.
Until I read Renting Dirt, I didn’t think much about owning an RV park. I pretty much took it for granted that it was a fairly straightforward process—buy or build the park, maintain it, price a campsite fairly, and promote it. The customers will come. But no, it’s a whole lot more than that.
Nobody in the campground industry, to my knowledge, has ever written as candidly about how much work is involved in operating an RV park. If they have, I’ve never seen it. Andy’s book is an eye-opener. Anyone thinking of building or buying an RV park should absolutely read this book before they get very far into the process. I believe some would-be buyers think that operating such a business is a way to earn a good living in the outdoors, maybe experience nature, meet nice people and be their own boss. Yes, that’s part of it.
But, as I have learned from Renting Dirt, it can be very difficult and, at times, exhausting work, physically, mentally and emotionally. And as Andy points out, pleasing campers can be maddening—even impossible, at times. My fellow RVers should read this book; they’ll have a whole new appreciation for the owners and operators of the parks where they stay.
I would never think a book on this subject could be a page-turner, but it is. I had a hard time putting it down.
Paperback version, 128 pages, incl. black and white photos. Price includes tax and shipping. Sorry, this link is available to U.S. customers only–mailing costs to Canada or overseas are too high for me to absorb.