PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (Arizona ARVC) has given its highest award to Dr. Saundra Bryn, the managing partner and treasurer of Dakar Enterprises, Inc., which does business as Desert’s Edge RV — The Purple Park, a nationally recognized RV park in Phoenix that Bryn’s family and a group of North Dakota teachers built 46 years ago.
Bryn received the Jack Denton Award April 27 during the association’s annual meeting at Rawhide Western Town in Chandler, Ariz.
The award is named in honor of Jack Denton, a campground and RV park industry pioneer who founded the Flagstaff KOA and helped establish the precursor of Arizona ARVC, the Arizona Campground Owners Association, as well as the national organization that later became the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
“It was a lovely surprise,” said Bryn, who has spent the past 15 years building Desert’s Edge RV — The Purple Park into an award-winning snowbird destination that was named one of the top 10 urban RV parks in America in 2014 by USA Today.
Bryn has also volunteered countless hours working to improve the educational program requirements, training and professionalism of RV park operators in Arizona and across the country by chairing the Education Committee of the ARVC Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), which Bryn also serves as a board member.
Bryn also serves on ARVC’s Public Affairs Committee, which handles legal, regulatory and legislative issues at state and federal levels involving RV parks across the country.
Bryn was surprised she received the Jack Denton Award, partly because she never planned to be involved in the RV park business.
She always thought she’d be an educator. After all, both of her parents were teachers. She majored in English and elementary education and eventually earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. In fact, her first job was teaching at a public school in Minot, N.D.
But Bryn’s father, Odin Bryn, relocated the family to Arizona in 1969 after being blacklisted for participating in a teacher’s strike in Minot. Bryn herself was a teacher at that time and opted to relocate to Arizona as well, along with several other teachers’ strike participants from North Dakota.
But while most of the North Dakota teachers resumed their teaching careers in the Phoenix area, Bryn’s father decided he had had enough of teaching — and school politics — and built an RV park, using funds from family and fellow teachers who relocated to the Phoenix area after the strike.
“Many of the teachers invested in the park, but didn’t come to build it,” Saundra Bryn said. “There were four or five teachers who did the big work on the park. Except for my dad, all of them had teaching jobs. They worked on the park on weekends and during the summer.”
Desert’s Edge RV opened in 1970 with a handful of campsites. But over the years, the Bryn family expanded the park.
Meanwhile, Saundra Bryn pursued her Arizona education career – first teaching junior high students for a number of years and then becoming a Language Arts Curriculum Specialist in a large Phoenix school district.
She later became principal in an outlying Phoenix school district that served students from low-income and migrant families. “It was a place where you could do incredible work,” she said.
It was there that Bryn discovered a talent for grant writing.
“We needed funding so desperately,” she said. “I wrote grants – first for the school and later for the district. Because I was bringing in money for the school, I was asked to become director of research and development so we could generate more grant money for Dysart Unified School District. From 1989 to 1999, we brought in over $3 million.”
The grants brought new class curriculum and technology to Dysart Middle School as well as Dysart High School, essentially bringing the schools into the 21st century. Bryn also helped generate funds for special education, bilingual education programs, cultural diversity, homeless assistance, trade apprenticeships, and many other programs.
Bryn eventually became a professor at Arizona State University, where she spent a decade teaching aspiring teachers how to teach.
But destiny caught up with her.
Bryn’s father died in 1997, and the family initially hired a manager to oversee Desert’s Edge RV. But the manager didn’t meet the family’s expectations, and the park started to fall into disrepair. It got to the point where Bryn felt compelled to leave her education career so that she could oversee the park on her own.
“Part of the reason I went out there was because we had so much invested in the property,” she said. “I also knew I could make things better.”
By 2000, Bryn was working at Desert’s Edge RV full time. She educated herself in the RV park business by attending the Arizona ARVC conference and by attending two years at the National School of RV Park Management in Oglebay, W.Va.
Bryn also became active with the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, holding board positions beginning in 2002.
She also got involved with ARVC at the national level, serving on the Council of Delegates from 2003 to 2011; the ARVC Foundation board from 2007 to the present; and the ARVC board from 2011 to the present.
At Oglebay, Bryn met Ron Beard, an Austin, Texas-based consultant who is one of the better known consultants in the RV park business, and developed plans for more than $500,000 in aesthetic improvements to her park. Together, they came up with the idea of painting park fences and buildings with purple teal and yellow paint to differentiate the park from others in Arizona, which typically use earth tones.
Bryn subsequently created purple basketball courts and a “putting purple” for golf enthusiasts.
“The idea caught on,” Bryn said, “and then people started calling and asking if we were ‘The Purple Park.’ We said, ‘If you want us to be ‘The Purple Park,’ we’ll be ‘The Purple Park.’ ”
Bryn also made significant investments to make the park environmentally friendly. These included investments in recycling bins and dumpsters for recycled waste as well as investments in energy-saving washers and driers, LED lighting, motion sensors, timed access lighting and solar panels for water heating. She has also invested in water-efficient desert landscaping and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
She won Park of the Year Awards from both Arizona ARVC and ARVC at the national level.
But Bryn ran into trouble two years ago when a mulching business opened up across the street. The business operated without permits, and emitted pollution that made her guests and people in the surrounding businesses sick.
Bryn worked with other business owners in the area and subsequently launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the problem, eventually forcing the city of Phoenix to take action and shut the business down.
Bryn’s business, meanwhile, has continued to grow and she continues to work with the education and public affairs committees of campground and RV park industry associations at the state and national levels. She will be part of a delegation of RV industry officials visiting Washington D.C. in early June for meetings organized by ARVC and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
SOURCE: Arizona ARVC press release