NEWVILLE, Wis. — “I talked to 20 to 25 KOA owners and I couldn’t find an unhappy one in the bunch! I was impressed,” said Milton/Madison SE KOA Owner Jim Kersten, who recently joined the Kampgrounds of America family with his wife, Marsha. “I’ve been looking at conversion for the last three years.”
While conversion to the KOA system may be new, campground ownership isn’t; 2017 marks the couple’s 24th year owning the former Hidden Valley RV Resort and Campground. It all began with advice from Jim’s father.
“Dad used to camp. He always said, ‘There aren’t that many good campgrounds out there. You should build a campground,’” said Jim. The couple took his advice to heart, looking for more than a year to find the right location. They found it a site near Milton, Wis., and began building their business — literally — from the ground up.
Today the campground is clean and modern, featuring a variety of accommodations and amenities including “VIP” RV sites, multiple playgrounds and a baseball field. Along with the name change, 2017 brings an expansion project that will add 34 new sites and some park models. These changes, along with the KOA reservation system and support, are part of the Kerstens’ strategy to increase midweek camper nights.
Jim and Marsha aren’t alone in their efforts. The couple raised their two daughters on the campground, and they continue to work together today.
“The girls were 12- and 13-years old when we built it,” said Jim. “When they graduated high school, we sent them out into the real world. After about three years, they came back!”
Daughter Mindy has worked at the park for a decade and is currently their general manager. Daughter Amber runs the counter.
“I like construction, so we do the expansion part, the new sites, et cetera,” Jim explained. “I don’t like to be behind the counter.”
He admits, however, that he and Marsha now have their sights set on retirement. They own a motorhome and enjoy traveling during the winter months — something which had given them the chance to talk to plenty of KOA owners over time. They’ve also recently purchased a home in Arizona.
“We’re going to let our daughter run it,” says Jim. “KOA has been easy to work with, and they’ve listened to me and what I need. KOA will be good for her, too.”
SOURCE: Kampgrounds of America press release