SD: Campground owners prepare for busy season

PIERRE, S.D. — RV shipments and sales are at all-time high, and fuel prices aren’t expected to climb too far above last year’s prices. That puts two factors in favor of a very busy camping season, and South Dakota’s campground owners are ready.

With the exponentially rising popularity of online campsite reservations, using early bookings isn’t a true barometer. Is the increase simply an indicator that more people are booking ahead of time, or is it a true indicator that campsites are in greater demand? Regardless, some the campgrounds are already booked to capacity for June and other campgrounds are pleasantly filling up.

Occupancy expectations was just one of many topics covered at last week’s spring gathering of the South Dakota Campground Owners Association (SDCOA), held in Rapid City. Attendance was open to anyone, which generated interest even from Minnesota. Yet, Old Man Winter challenged the day with a snow system that covered the central and eastern parts of the state.

A short business meeting was held before launching into expert sessions by industry supplier members. Topics included online reservations and front office management programs, insurance for campgrounds, preparing to sell a campground, and managing online reviews. There was also a brief presentation by Kevin Quinn of the Black Hills Tour Company, a company that caters to showing off key attractions to tourists who are staying at the area’s campgrounds.

In addition, there were formal presentations by Jeff Sims of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), Peter Pelland of the Massachusetts-based Pelland Advertising, and Mark Douglass, co-founder and CEO of the Colorado-based RVing Accessibility Group.

Arlington said, “It was a packed day. Programs such as this can’t be achieved alone. It took the participation of everyone! Barry Conley, owner of It’s All About Satellites, was the event’s sponsor, and our other industry supplier members also provided great support. And of course, the campground members; without them there would be no reason to do what we do. The association is a community that works together, forming a remarkable team.”

Members were also shown more of the new CampSDakota product line, with the recent launching of social media to attract campers to the state. They were also shown the newly expanded SDCOA product line of both social media and the new website for the association. Arlington added, “The sites aren’t as well developed as they will be in another year, but we’re farther along than they were last autumn. Program development takes time, as does a door-to-door membership drive that we’re about to launch. If only there were 100 hours to a day!”

The new Board of Directors is President Ed Miller (Rush No More RV Park, Resort, Cabins & Campground), Vice President Carla Jacobsen (Rapid City / Black Hills KOA), Treasurer Elaine Zobel (Custer’s Gulch RV Park & Campground), Secretary Stephen Saint (Fort Welikit Family Campground) and Director Verne Kroeger (Heritage Village Campground).

Retiring from their previous long terms on the Board of Directors are Ray Zobel of Custer’s Gulch RV Park & Campground and Lanna and Bryce Christensen of Chris’ Campground. The industry is truly indebted to them for their years of dedicated service.

Arlington explained, “Some of these current and past directors led the association for many years. We are taking steps toward inspiring growth, both in membership and in leadership. While we give a few leaders a reprieve from the duties, we know they will remain active and will one day step up again to lead. Rotating leaders is healthy. Hopefully in the near future we’ll also see some from the eastern part of the state step into leadership roles. After all, this is a statewide association.”

The next gathering will be in autumn and will take place in Pierre. Details will be outlined and announced by mid-August.

SOURCE: South Dakota Campground Owners Association (SDCOA) press release

Ronnie Wendt

Ronnie Wendt

Ronnie Wendt has been a writer/editor for more than 25 years, working in law enforcement, aviation, supply chain and the RV industry. She's not a stranger to RVs, however. She grew up camping, and still camps as many weekends as she can every year. She is the owner of In Good Company Communications and can be reached at

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