The average length of time before an RV campground is put up for sale is just seven years—and as it turns out, there's a good reason for that. While campers are out to experience fresh air, bucolic surroundings and the easy-going camaraderie of fellow travelers, the people who create that environment are often over-worked, under-paid and stressed out. And to make matters worse, their efforts are too readily dismissed as just "renting dirt."
This first-hand narrative describes one couple's journey from wide-eyed occasional campers to full-time owners of a medium-sized RV campground in the Shenandoah Valley. Buying in early 2013, as the campground industry was just regaining its feet after the Great Recession, the Zipser family soon realized that their biggest challenge wasn't managing the property—it was managing the people involved with it: campers with diverse and often unrealistic expectations, a franchise system led by a brain trust with minimal boots-on-the-ground experience, and a transient workforce with employees stuck on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.