Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meet This Featured Meadville KOA Kamping Family!

We want to introduce you to a camping family that stayed with us back in June of this summer.  They are Al & Janice Geniviva, and their daughter, Juliet!

They are from Gibsonia, PA and camped with us on their “shake-down cruise”.  A shake down cruise is a camping trip taken by purchasers of a new RV to make sure they’ve “worked all the bugs out” before a big trip!  Nothing ruins a vacation any faster than vehicle or RV trouble while traveling.  So most prudent new owners do a trial run to help prevent such catastrophes! 

You see they purchased their new 18’ Bambi Airstream Trailer in Greensburg, PA from Airsteam of Western PA (pictured in photo)!  Known for their quality and value, Airstream trailers generally have few, if any bugs to work out.  But it’s always better to be safe, than sorry.  After all, we all know that “stuff happens”!  And according to these folks they believe in that old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  

They are planning a week-long vacation in late July to Belfast Maine!  They wanted to make sure they were good to go before taking off on a long distance trip like that.  We could tell from our brief conversation that they were very much looking forward to this trip, and wanted everything to go well.

When asked why they purchased an Airstream, they answered that they tow it with a small truck, and wanted something that was light weight, high quality, and would hold its value.  Airstream trailers certainly have a reputation for meeting their criteria.  But moreover, they just love the Airstream and what it had to offer them. 

New, first time campers or campers with new RVs aren’t anything new to Meadville KOA.  We escort every RV camper to their campsite and help get them parked.  It's part of our customer service and hospitality services. It gives us a chance to help teach people some basics about backing an RV up, or positioning their RV on a campsite.  Our staff often shows campers how to hook up utilities, level, dump tanks, etc.  Of course the best time to do a shake down cruise or first time outing is in the spring or early summer when campgrounds are less busy.  But even on busy weekends, our staff tries to take the time to answer questions, and help new RVers learn the ropes.  We’re honored to have so many customers come camp with us to try out their new RV and ask questions.  It’s just another part of paying it forward and helping our campers. 

We hope that you’ll come see what’s behind the yellow sign at Meadville KOA this summer, bring the family and spend your vacation enjoying a campground where modern convenience meets nature! 

Until we see you, we wish you safe and happy kamping, where ever your travels take you!    

By Robyn Chilson


Tim & Robyn Chilson, CPOs, who own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA. Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Staying Safe While Camping

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when camping.  Don’t be lulled into thinking that just because you’re in a tent, cabin, or are RV camping in a private campground or RV park a few miles out of town that you’re safe, and that the laws of your nature don’t apply to you!
Camping history is full of stories about bears getting into bird feeders, coolers, and tents.  These encounters are generally a young bear, newly kicked out of the den because mom now has a new cub, and who now has to fend for himself.  They quickly learn to associate campers with an easy meal.  The teenage equivalent of a McDonald’s drive-thru.
The food source can be campers who leave food on their campsite picnic table that can be right up under the awning of the RV, unburned food scraps in a fire pit, or forgetting to put the cooler away, a bag of garbage they failed to take to the dumpster before nightfall, bird feeders they have out, and even grease from a BBQ grill or dumped from a fryer.
These simple things can attract bears.  And the last thing you want is you, your children, spouse, or pets having a face to face meeting with a bruin.  While attacks by black bears are rare, they can happen and it’s important to remember that you’re in their territory.  They were here, in the woodlots of Pennsylvania, long before RVs and campers were. 
As their guest, we need to make sure we’re doing our part to not cause them the heartache of being trapped out and relocated.  It isn’t fair to the animals.      
So please follow these simple safety tips when you are camping to ensure your safety.
  1. Never, ever allow your children to take food in their tents.  If the children are sleeping in a tent, they need to eat at the picnic table, or in the RV.  Never, ever, never take food in the tent. 
  2. Never leave food out on your picnic table, especially overnight.  Put the cooler in the RV or trunk.  You become a McD’s dive thru, remember?  It’ll entice them to come right into your campsite for that easy meal.
  3. Never place food scraps in the campfire.  All food scraps need to go into the garbage bag and to the dumpster every evening.  Cooking oil from fryers needs to cool, and then go back in the bottles it came out of and placed in the dumpster.  Never dump oil in the campground.  
  4. Take the garbage to the dumpster each night before retiring.  Never leave garbage out overnight.  A bag of garbage will attract, skunks, raccoons, bears, opossums, dogs, etc. that can quickly turn a fun, family outing into a bad experience.  Not only will they make a mess, but they’ll be back, and they become ever more aggressive to get their meal.  That can place your family at risk of being bitten by a raccoon, skunk, bear, dog, etc.
  5. Never try to feed or entice bears or other critters.  While they may be cute to see at a distance, they aren’t cute if they bite you and you have to go through a series of very painful rabies shots. 
  6. If you see fresh bear skat while hiking, make sure you talk to your friends loudly or if you’re alone talk to the bears loudly or sing a song loudly, keep your head up, and be on the lookout for the bear.  If you encounter a bear, give it lots of room, and keep your distance.  Never run from one. Back away from the situation if you can.  And try to keep yourself positioned so you’re never between a sow and her cub.  That can be very dangerous.
  7. Don’t forget that you need to know how to identify snakes too.  You could encounter them while hiking, camping, fishing, etc.  Make sure, like bears, you watch where you’re walking, and know your venomous snakes from non-venomous snakes.  Never play with snakes.  Even a non-poisonous snake bite can be nasty and require medical attention.
  8. Make sure you know your surroundings and keep your pets leashed.  Small animals like cats and dogs can and do become prey for coyotes.    
  9. And last, but certainly not least, know your plants.  Teach your children the old adage “leaves of three, leave it be”.  Watch for and stay out of poison ivy, poison sumac, and other plants that can cause very uncomfortable skin rashes.       
The best way to have a safe and fun camping adventure it to remember that the outdoors can have hazards that can be difficult to navigate if you forget that you’re a guest in the great outdoors!  So have fun, but be smart and stay safe!

By Robyn Chilson

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why Are Visitor Fees Charged At Campgrounds & RV Parks?

No matter which campground that campers choose to stay at, if they have friends or family living in or near that area, chances are, they’ll want to visit them.  When guests arrive at the campground, they are often charged a visitation fee, and many are surprised by that.  Below, we’ve listed some reasons why visitor fees are necessary.   

The campground’s facilities can only handle so many people at a time.  It isn’t that campground owners don’t want visitors.  On the contrary, we love you to invite people to come visit.  We love to have people see and enjoy our parks.  We take great pride in them.  However, additional people place an extra burden on the facilities.  There are the obvious additional expenses of toilet tissue, paper towels, cleaning supplies, attendant’s labor, garbage bags, and more.  The prices of these supplies have sky rocketed with increased petroleum prices.  We have to recoup those costs. 

Popular, private campgrounds receive hundreds of visitors a month, which can translate into thousands of visitors a season, which translates into huge extra expenses for the campground.  The less obvious long-term expense is that expanding facilities is a huge investment these days and in order to maintain the facilities a campground has, they have to stay within the capacity boundaries for which their water and sewage systems were designed and for which they are permitted.  Water system quality, pool samples, and sewage testing are required by the state to the tune of thousands of dollars a season.  All for good reason, as they are designed to keep the public’s drinking water, swimming facilities, and ground water safe.  However, when extra burdens are cast upon those facilities, the costs to maintain and operate them increase as well.  If the testing of those systems is that expensive, imagine the increased operating expenses for them as well.

State and local laws, set occupancy, and facilities are only permitted for so many people accordingly.  Design load and licensing of campgrounds or the facilities is similar to the ‘seating capacity’ license you see in food services, however recognize that because a campground does not have tables and chairs that limit occupancy, it must be done in another fashion.  The state issues sewer treatment permits based on the total number of campsites and number of people per campsite, times the average water usage per campsite.  That is why the number of people per campsite and the total number of campsites is limited.  When the campground is full, an extra 8 people is another campsite.  Multiple that by several campsites, and the idea of overflowing sewer systems should come to mind.

In addition, the visitor rates aren’t normally set on the person who uses the facilities the least, but on the average cost of the visitors to the campground or RV park.  The campground owner assumes that your family will participate in activities and events, enjoy the entertainment provided, and or utilize the swimming pool, and other facilities and amenities.  These business owners know that their visitor rates go up dramatically on holiday and special event weekends.  The numbers of visitors increase because we have special activities and events; have better entertainers or entertainment and more things to do.

In some states, laws require that every visitor to a private outdoor hospitality property register, regardless of intent to visit residents or use the facilities. State health department require that business owners can identify all in residence and visiting in case health issues arise.  User pay fees are the fairest way to cover the costs of those inherent costs, and should a health risk arise, to identify the users at risk.

Security is always a concern.  Campgrounds, like anywhere else, can be a target for thieves, child predators, etc. So tracking who is in the park helps to reduce the chances of theft, child abductions, among others.  It provides more security for both your family and possessions.

Emergency Preparedness is essential!  What if the campground had to be evacuated in the event of a fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado?  How would the campground account for who was on the premises and who might be missing?

Parking extra vehicles is another issue.  In most campgrounds, real estate is a premium.  So, too many cars per campsite quickly become a congestion and safety issue.  Most campgrounds limit the number of vehicles per campsite to one or two for safety reasons and rescue vehicle access.  Therefore, the campground needs to provide extra visitor parking areas to relieve that congestion and ensure access for emergency vehicles.  That means that there is a clerk that has to assign the visitors tags, provide access to the park, a campsite map to help the visitor to find the folks they desire to visit, and finally directions on where they are to park.  All of these materials and the employee’s time is an additional increase to the cost of operations to the business. 

Be a courteous camper!  No one wants to be camped next to a mob.  If you’re planning a family reunion, birthday party or another celebration of some sort, ask about using a pavilion or facility so as not to intrude on your camping neighbor!  

Increased visitors increase a campground’s liability insurance costs.  The rates for a campground’s liability insurance are based on the risk assessment and the number of people who occupy a campground during a season.  The higher the number of occupants in the RV Park or campground, the risk increases accordingly.  In addition, some insurance carriers argue that visitors are more likely to be injured because they are unfamiliar with their surroundings, may not be aware of all the rules or safety policies at campgrounds, and are less likely to be dressed appropriately for the camping or outdoor experience.  All of these things place the visitor at an increased risk for an injury.    

Remember that privately owned and operated campgrounds aren’t subsidized by tax dollars like federal, state, and county parks.  Even at most of those campgrounds, there is an entrance fee, and then camping fees on top of it.  They charge for visitors too.  It’s called day use fees.     

Read the back of your visitor's tag!  Many campgrounds, offer a full refund if you're only there a short time (less than an hour).  You just take the time-stamped tag back to the office and they'll refund your visitation fee if you were there in less than that amount of time.  

State Laws define unlawful trespass and theft of services.  Visitors or users of any private property that have not identified their purpose are considered trespassers, and are subject to trespass laws, and or theft of service charges. In some states, this is also called defrauding an inn keeper.  These laws help protect campgrounds from thieves, vagrants, etc.  Trying to cheat or defraud a campground owner as to how many people you have camping with you or visiting you can land you in hot water with the law.  Please don’t do that! It’s not only more honest and the right thing to do, it’s the law.  Please don’t place a campground owner in the position of having to have you arrested for unlawful trespass, defiant trespass, and/or theft of services.

Visitor’s fees, as you can see, are necessary.  There are additional costs associated with visitors.  It isn’t fair to pass those costs on to all the campers.  That is why most campgrounds charge the people receiving those services (i.e. the visitor) for the services rendered.
So the next time you hear someone complaining about a visitor’s fee, or worse yet encouraging another person to cheat or to avoid paying a visitors fee, remember that it is you, the RVer or camper, who will ultimately pay for that visit.  At the end of the business year, when the numbers come in, and that owner looks at the bottom line from that camping season, the campground owner will have to set their rates for the next season to offset their losses.  In other words, they’ll have to raise the campsite prices accordingly to pay for those extra supplies, extra tests, extra labor and extra maintenance.  So when visitors cheat, they aren’t cheating just the campground owner and breaking the law.  In the end, they are cheating the American consumer, and in this case, that is you, the camper. 

By Robyn Chilson

Tim & Robyn Chilson, own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  You can contact Robyn at 814-789-3251

May is national Lyme Disease Prevention Month

Lyme Disease Awareness Month is a campaign which promotes preventative measures which can be taken against Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is an acute inflammatory disease caused by the bite of a tick infected with the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi; Lyme disease is spread through the bite of ticks which carry Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.
In the United States there are two main species of tick which carry and spread Lyme disease. The deer tick or black legged tick(Ixodes scapularis) spreads the disease in the north central and eastern parts of the United States.
The western black legged tick (Ixodes pacifus) spreads Lyme disease on the west (Pacific) coast. Both species of ticks are found in wooded areas. The life cycle of the Ixodes tick is complex.
Symptoms:
There are two types of symptoms of Lyme Disease: first and late symptoms. First symptoms are usually flu-like and include fatigue, tiredness, joint and muscle pain, and also a characteristic rash. Late symptoms can take much longer to develop: weeks, months or even years. Late symptoms may include fatigue, mental health issues, the condition arthritis and chronic encephalomyeltits.
Chronic encephalomyeltits is a progressive condition (symptoms become worse or more widespread), and include back pain, bladder problems, vertigo and weakness in the legs. Late Lyme disease can also cause brain, joint, and heart infection.
The Need For This Awareness Month:
In the United States over the last few years, there has been a steady increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease. Lyme Disease Awareness Month educates both the young and old about Lyme Disease and how they can take steps to prevent it.
As both types of ticks which carry the Lyme disease virus live in wooded areas, people who visit these areas are encouraged to wear protective clothing around the ankles.
White or light clothing is recommended as it is easier to spot any ticks. Shirts and T-shirts should be tucked into your pants (trousers), and socks pulled up over the bottom of the pants. Using an insect repellent can also help prevent the ticks from getting on to you. Pets should also be checked. Before returning inside it is recommended to do a tick check first.
Tick Removal Lowers The Risk Of Lyme Disease:
Carrying a tick removal kit is advised as they can be used to effectively remove ticks from body reducing the risk of disease transmission. Often the disease is transmitted when a tick is not removed properly.
The body breaks away with the head still buried in the skin; this causes the tick to regurgitate its contents into the persons body.
'Do It Yourself' tick kits should include an insect repellant, a pair of fine tweezers, an antiseptic and small vial.
Using the tweezers, remove the tick with the tips of the tweezers as close as possible to the skin around the ticks mouth parts. A gentle upward action is recommend by the Lyme Disease Foundation. By placing the tick in a vial with a blade of grass, the tick can be kept alive for testing.

This article was reprinted from Lyme Disease Foundation Page.  You can get more information at: http://www.whathealth.com/awareness/event/lymediseaseawarenessmonth.html 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KOA’s Big Discount Weekends!

April is a great time of year to begin booking your summer campouts.  Everyone loves a discount, and that is why you need to know about the KOA Value Kard Rewards Membership, and these special discount weekends offered at KOA Campgrounds.  They can provide big savings for your family!

All campers are welcome at KOA campgrounds.  You do not have to be a KOA Value Kard Member to camp at a KOA campground.  If you do become a KOA Value Kard Rewards Member, it pays you back with big savings!  The more you camp at KOA Campgrounds, the more points you accumulate, and the more discounts or free camping you’ll receive.  First, for a yearly membership of just $27.00, you save 10% on every stay at any of the almost 500 KOA Campgrounds across the US and Canada.  Secondly, you receive points for each stay, card renewal, special offers, and more.  Those points can later be redeemed for more discounts or free camping,  as long as you maintain your membership.  Third, being a KOA member entitles you to these special discount weekends listed below, and the Hot Deals advertised on the KOA website for each individual KOA Campground.  You can get more information about KOA’s Value Kard Rewards Program at https://koa.com/value-kard-rewards/.  If you have any questions about the program that we can answer for you, please feel free to call us, and we’ll help you!

We hope you’ll join us for these three super savings weekends offered by KOA! 

May 8th & 9th is Care Camps Big Weekend!  All paying guests renting a campsite Friday May 8th, receive Saturday May 9th for just $10.00!  We dedicate this weekend to raising money for Care Camps across the United States to help send sick children to enjoy the healing nature of camp.  In 2014, thanks to the generosity of our wonderful campers and suppliers, KOA raised over $1,000,000 for this effort.  In 2015, KOA will cover the administrative costs for the charity.  That means, that every dollar of every donation our campers make, goes directly to sending a critically ill child to camp.  This weekend can save your family 40% on camping! We hope you’ll donate to help us send a child to camp!  Your family saves big on your weekend of camping, and you’ll walk away feeling great about helping a sick child enjoy just being a kid at camp!  It truly redefines who they are, and as always, we thank you for your generosity.   

On Father’s Day Weekend, June 19th & 20th, kids camp free for all Value Kard Reward Members at all participating KOA Campgrounds.  If you have a large family or want to take the grandchildren camping for Father’s Day, this is the perfect weekend for you to go camping!  The campgrounds will have fun family events and activities planned to celebrate our dads!  

Each year in September, KOA hosts a national Value Kard Reward Members Appreciation Weekend!  KOA wants to make sure you know how much we appreciate all of our great KOA Value Kard Reward Members!  All KOA Value Kard Members receive Saturday night at no charge when they purchase Friday night at all participating KOA Campgrounds.  This year, the national Value Card Weekend is September 18th & 19th at all participating KOA Campgrounds.  However, at Meadville KOA, we’re actually having ours the weekend prior on September 11th & 12th.  That gives our campers the opportunity to camp with us for one night free, and then to camp for one night free when they buy one, with another participating KOA on the weekend of the national campaign! 

No matter how you add it up, if you take advantage of just the Care Camps Big Weekend, or just the Value Kard Rewards Membership Appreciation Weekend, you’ll have more than paid for the cost of the KOA Value Rewards Kard Membership fee and already started saving money and collecting points.  You can get more information about KOA’s national events and which campgrounds are participating at http://koa.com/national-events/.           

If you don’t have an RV, but want to try camping, some KOA’s offer these discounts on cabin rentals.  It’s a great, low cost way to introduce your family to camping!  Check out the KOA deluxe cabins.  Most KOA Campgrounds now offer Cable TV in their deluxe cabins.  All KOA Campgrounds offer Wi-Fi.  KOA deluxe cabins will change your perception of camping, as they are a great, affordable, fun family vacation value.     

We hope that your summer camping plans include us at Meadville KOA Campground! We invite you to join us for Care Camp Weekends and to not only get a great discount for your family, but to help us change the lives of critically ill children.  We thank you, as always, for your generosity.  If you want more information about us, you can find it at http://www.meadvillekoa.com/.  

We look forward to seeing you this summer!  Until we do, we always wish you safe and fun camping, wherever your travels take you!     

By Robyn Chilson

Tim & Robyn Chilson own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251 or at www.MeadvilleKOA.com.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Meadville KOA Featured in RV Daily Report

Meadville KOA Featured in RV Daily Report

"Family Tradition Becomes a Lifestyle for KOA Owners"

This is a reprint of the original article (with permission), which can be seen in its original form, photos, and print at:   http://rvdailyreport.com/campground/family-tradition-becomes-a-lifestyle-for-koa-owners/

By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report

There are few people better suited to be campground managers than Robyn and Tim Chilson, who own Meadville KOA, which is located an hour south of Erie, Pa., and two hours east of Cleveland, Ohio.

Her vivacious, chatty personality instantly makes people feel relaxed and welcome. Tim’s attention to detail and ability to fix just about any problem at the campground makes him the right guy to handle the operations side of the business.

Meadville KOA sits on 63 acres of property and offers 160 camping sites, 77 of which are designated for extended stay and seasonal use. The Chilsons have four cabins, three of which they added. Two of those are lake-front deluxe models that offer restrooms, kitchens, two bedrooms, heat and air conditioning. They also added a camping cabin that just has beds and a table – a perfect rustic upgrade for tent campers who are tired of sleeping on the ground or fighting inclement weather.

Originally known as the Brookdale Family Campground, the property was a farm at one time, and then a fish hatchery until it was converted to a campground in 1985.

Before buying the campground, the Chilsons lived in eastern Pennsylvania where Tim worked as a division accountant and office manager for a natural gas company and Robyn as an engineering technician for a chemical company. Desiring a career change, they thought getting into the campground business would be more rewarding and enjoyable.

Upgrading amenities

Since acquiring the campground in 1999, the Chilsons have completed a major upgrade to the sewer system in 2008, at a cost of $350,000.

“Septic is an unappreciated cost incurred by campground owners,” Tim explained. “It’s something customers don’t readily see or think about. But the state requires us to have a sewer plant license and testing costs are $200 per test, which is conducted bi-monthly.”

Prior to that, in 2002 they added 11 pull-through, 50-amp sites to their already existing sites that are 45 to 50 feet wide. In 2013, the Chilsons installed new transformers and pedestals to bring 50-amp service to 10 seasonal campsites at a cost of $1,000 per site. Last summer, they finished installing satellite TV to 123 full-hookup sites, which was another large investment.

“We laid about 10,500 feet of cable throughout the campground to deliver a high-quality signal,” said Tim. “Every site has its own drop so the signal doesn’t degrade.”

“The first day we flipped the switch on the TV system, we saw a big spike in usage,” he added. “It’s not your father’s camping experience any more. People want more luxury in their RVs. Cable TV was one of the most requested amenities when people called to book a site.”

Four years ago, wireless Internet access was added to the campground, and an upgrade to a better version of Checkbox was completed last year too. That’s a good thing, because the campground is situated in an areas where it is difficult to get strong cell phone signals on the property, especially after Verizon rotated the tower equipment just a few degrees a few of years ago, and they lost almost all Verizon service at their campground.

“We’ve seen demand for wireless increase year after year,” Tim explained. “Children are bringing more toys that connect to the Internet, and parents want to check e-mail or keep up with their Facebook friends. So, last year, we upgraded to the highest level of high-speed service offered by our cable company. The investment pays off in customer satisfaction with guests connecting at download speeds of 15 mbs and higher.”

The Chilsons live in a home located in an obscure part of the park, but close enough for them to promptly return to the campground to handle any situations that may arise.

“We don’t generally have a problem with our guests,” said Robyn. “We have developed a reputation as a family campground. On occasion, we do get a late arrival or camper off the road, and we come back to the campground to meet them and escort them to their campsite.”

Plenty of fun

There is plenty to keep kids busy throughout the park. There is a soccer field and basketball court, as well as three separate playgrounds and a place for volleyball games. Guests can also engage in catch-and-release fishing in any of the six “ponds” on site.

The campground sponsors a fishing tournament July 4 weekend. In addition, on other designated weekends, several catfish are tagged with a special zip tie, and whoever catches one wins a prize bag containing $10 worth of lures and fishing supplies. Kids and adults who catch their first fish, or a large fish, can have their photos posted on a bulletin board in the lodge and on the campground website by e-mailing the photo to the campground through their website.

For those folks who want to swim, Meadville KOA offers a nice pool with solar heated water. The filtered water runs from the pump house to the pool through a series of black plastic tubes coiled along the pool’s fence that faces the sun. As the water circulates through the tubes, the free solar energy warms the water, which can get up to 80 degrees.

Sandbox diggers are a big hit with smaller children because they can scoop up sand and create big piles — just like construction workers. Their new wooden playground and retro swings are popular with kids too.

A large multi-purpose room in the recreation hall serves as a bingo facility and for meals. A large game room allows people to earn tickets for prizes that can be redeemed for toys and win items like ice cream and large stuffed animals.

Rental Amenities

Meadville KOA offers paddle boats and pedal karts rentals for 30 minutes of use, plus mini golf at the “Nuttin’ But Puttin” course.

Guests can purchase wristbands to get all-day or all stay up to a week access to the rental amenities which includes the paddle boats, pedal karts, mini golf, and a large jumping pillow on weekends. The fee helps cover the costs to maintain the equipment and pay for items like helmets and life preservers.
“I love that kids can get fresh air and exercise when they come here,” said Robyn. ”After the kids have played hard all day, by evening we’ve worn them out and they’re content to sit around the campfire, eat a s’more, and crash for the night.”

Attention To Customer Service

The Meadville KOA has a wide selection of food products available in the camp store, and gets weekly and in some cases bi-weekly deliveries to resupply the shelves. The list of items carried has expanded over the years as campers requested items they didn’t routinely carry.
“Shopping in the store saves people a seven-mile trip into town and seven miles back just to get milk, bread, or something for dinner,” she added. “We serve as both a camp store for the campground and a local convenience store for the local rural community.”

The Chilsons also added consignment RV sales to their list of services offered. The units are displayed along part of the campground’s highway frontage. The couple advertises and shows the RVs for owners in exchange for a percentage of the price. It’s a great way to entice tent campers into the RV lifestyle, and provides an additional valuable service to campers, Robyn explained.

Unauthorized vehicle access to the park is kept to a minimum with an electric gate that requires a gate card to open. The gate also helps slow down traffic by preventing vehicles from pulling off the highway and speeding into the campground, and it provides a level of security for the campers.

The Chilsons, or one of their staff members, escorts each camper to their campsite after arrival and check-in. “We want to ensure that our camper gets on the site that they desire, and are happy with that site, whether that means they want more shade, less shade, closer to a playground, etc,” Tim said. “It gives us an opportunity to make that personal contact and make sure the camper is satisfied with their site and move them to a site that better meets their expectation, if for some reason the initial site doesn’t.”

People who make frequent trips to the campground can pay $1 per day for storage when their RVs are not in use. The staff will pull the rigs back onto a campsite before the families arrive, and move it back to the storage area after they check out.

“Pets are one of the biggest blessings and biggest problems for Meadville KOA and most campgrounds,” said Robyn, who noted that many families want to bring their pets with them when they’re vacationing. But, barking dogs and owners not cleaning up after their pets are the most frequent complaints they hear.

“When our staff visits a site after check out to clean the fire rings, they are also looking for and removing any animal waste left behind,” Tim explained.

The camp staff not only mows and trims the overnight sites, they also mow and trim the seasonal sites to ensure a more uniform appearance for the campground. Seasonal campers have very neat, clean, and well maintained campsites personalized with decorations, flowers, and other plantings.
“It’s an aesthetic thing. We do the mowing during the week when we’re not so busy so that people don’t have to listen to a neighbor mowing the grass on a Saturday morning,” said Tim. “In addition, it’s a premium level of service we supply that no other campground in Western Pennsylvania does. It’s a level of customer service that sets us apart from other campgrounds. We believe that our level of customer service, and getting to know our campers personally, and them knowing us, is some of the reasons that our repeat campers and friend referral numbers are so high.”

Why KOA?

When looking for a campground, the Chilsons were active KOA campers themselves. They had hoped to buy a KOA, but the one they were looking at sold before they could sell their home. They were forced to pass on that campground. However, the Brookdale Family Campground soon became available and they acquired it instead.

For 10 years, they ran the facility pretty much like the previous owners had until a KOA representative approached them in late 2010.

“We already had a good reputation, and we really didn’t want to give up our logo and the brand we had worked so hard to develop, but I promised the rep we would look at the information,” Robyn explained. “After reviewing it, we couldn’t say no to national advertising at a level no other franchise delivers, the KOA reservations system, guest reviews system and quality programs, and the opportunity to get more travelers, especially overnight guests.”

In 2014, the Chilsons achieved their first KOA Founder’s Award, which is based on quality inspector’s marks and guest reviews from their camping customers. It is KOA’s highest quality award, and Meadville KOA has been a President’s Award winning park since joining the KOA system in 2011.

The Many Hats Campground Owners Wear

One of the things most campers don’t realize about owning a campground is the amount of training and licenses required to operate a public camping facility, which of course, varies by state. For example, in Pennsylvania, campgrounds must study and take a pesticide application test to become licensed to operate a public swimming pool. The license holder must also maintain continuing education credit hours, which Tim does when they attend conventions for their state each fall. In addition to the pool license, they are required to have a sewer license, sport fishing license, propane distribution license, food handler’s license, and a license to sell dairy products in the store.

Tim served on the Pennsylvania Campground Owner’s Board of Directors for five years. The Chilsons have attended KOA University, the ARVC School of Campground Management Graduate Class, and both achieved their initial certified park owner credentials from the National Association of RV Parks and Campground. All of these programs have been instrumental in them running a successful campground, they noted.

Despite the extra work it entails, the Chilsons say they won’t trade the campground lifestyle for any other job.

“We’re fortunate and have been blessed to meet a ton of great families,” said Robyn. “We get to have fun with their kids and introduce them to wacky activities they aren’t likely to enjoy anywhere else, like free crafts, candy bar BINGO, panning for gold, water barrel battles with the local volunteer fire company, cardboard and duct tape boat races.”

“We have kids who are in college now who have been camping here since they were 3 or 4 years old,” she added. “And one of our seasonal campers and a student employee who fished with his parents and grandparents in our ponds has brought his kids here to enjoy the same experience.”

The Chilsons not only serve RVers, they love to go RVing in their Laredo travel trailer, which they often take to the KOA and ARVC conventions. Robyn and Tim, who have been married for 34 years this summer, have two sons who were 12 and 16 when they moved to the campground.

“We had camped with our own kids for years before we considered buying a campground,” Tim added. “Camping is a great investment parents can make with their kids.”

Tim Chilson added, “Owning a campground is a nice, fun way to make a living while providing a valuable service. Our children learned a lot working here during their high school and college years.”

Their oldest son, Michael, now lives and works for an engineering company as a CAD designer in the Pittsburgh area, and runs a DJ service. He is still a DJ at Meadville KOA events on the holiday weekends, which he started doing as teenager while in high school. Their youngest son, Anthony, lives and works in eastern Pennsylvania as a social worker, and volunteers each summer at the county’s summer youth camp for at-risk kids in the social services system.

For more information, call 814.789.3251 or visit www.meadvillekoa.com.