The Campground at Willow Springs
Thu, 09/09/2021 - 11:35am admin
Amanda Mendez, Publisher
The former KOA campground on the outskirts of Willow Springs has been purchased at last after remaining vacant and up for sale for years. Susan Swift is the name of the new owner, and her plans for the site are to return it to its former glory as a functioning campground for motorhome, van, and tent campers alike.
A retired air traffic controller, Swift has resided in her own motorhome full time since 2019. Family connections brought her to Willow Springs. Traveling up and down the West coast inspired Swift’s vision for The Campground at Willow Springs.
The plainspoken name of the business is reflective of the destination she hopes to create, Swift told Howell County News.
“It’s simple. It doesn’t sound trashy,” she explained.
The vision is a family-friendly campground and community hub that will offer a clean and safe stop for travelers and offer a location for events and activities. Referring back to the types of campground festivals she saw in Oregon, Swift described long term plans for movie nights and music shows. In the short term, she expects to host simple community activities like chili cook-offs.
The dirt work currently taking place on the property is the replacement of the water, sewer, and electric lines to the motorhome campsites. Swift is doing the work herself, with the help of family and friends.
“We have a big vision and little budget,” she quipped.
These full-service spots are the first sites Swift plans to open. Tent camping will come later. The property includes an additional 11 acres not visible from Highway 76. In former days, the gently rolling hills were set up for tents, and Swift plans to host tent campers again.
Longtime residents of Willow Springs will recall the KOA Campground in the 1970’s with a swimming pool and concessions sold from the A-frame building. The A-frame still stands, and may remain a fixture of the property. Like many other facets of the campground, it is in disrepair from sitting vacant but could be restored. A pavilion and the swimming pool remain shrouded in brush, but will likely become part of the campground again one day, Swift said. The mature trees are almost all healthy and will remain standing.
The City of Willow Springs has been very helpful since the change of ownership, Swift shared. In addition to installing a new transformer and electrical poles, the City has accommodated Swift with an ordinance change. Over the summer, the City Council debated and eventually voted to change a city ordinance pertaining to RV residency.
Howell County News previously reported in July that the City had concerns about recreational vehicles being used as permanent dwellings. The ordinance at the time restricted time in an RV to ten days.
“But what if [guests] want to stay two weeks?” Swift asked.
City Administrator Beverly Hicks shared with the City Council at the July meeting that Swift was wary of an ordinance that would be too restrictive and could harm her business. In response, the Council passed Ordinance 1568 which revises Chapter 605 of the Willow Springs Municipal code, and ensures that vehicles in a recreational vehicle park, as defined in this newly implemented section, cannot be used as a permanent place of abode, but allows for longer-term visitors. The new ordinance also requires Swift, or other RV park owners, to apply for a permit, to maintain records of occupants and to use City utilities, including sewer, electricity, and water.
Swift told Howell County News that she will be discerning of the condition of campers and motorhomes on her property, and that travelers of all ages are welcome.