The road may be narrow and winding, and when you first pull up, the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah Valley KOA (HSVKOA) looks like your typical KOA. The A-frame building housing the office, camp store, small kitchen/dining area, laundry facilities, and bathhouse is trademark KOA. But once inside, you realize this isn’t your parents’ KOA. And beyond the store, rising up the mountain toward the George Washington National Forest is a gem of a campground. They have received both the 2019 Founder’s and President’s Award, and I can see why.
I had the chance to sit down with new owners, Sandy and Andrea Arnold, to see what they’ve been up to and their plans for the future. Of course, my first question was “What was it about this campground that made you pick it over others you’d seen?”
Andrea they were drawn to the forest, the Shenandoah Valley, and the peacefulness of the space. I commented that I hadn’t heard any traffic or airplane noise. Sandy mentioned that the only time they’ve heard a helicopter was when the state was cutting tree branches away from the power lines.
The Arnolds bought the HSVKOA on August 8, 2018, and hit the ground running. They inherited the beginnings of a new waste treatment plant installation, which is necessary since the campground isn’t connected to city water and sewer. This is an ongoing project that, when finished in the coming months, will be a state-of-the-art water treatment plant. According to Sandy, by the time sewer is filtered and treated by the plant, the resulting water will be cleaner than the many streams on the 50-acre property.
Upon reading comments by previous visitors, the Arnolds knew they had to improve the internet system in the park. They now have fiberoptic lines and commercial grade internet equipment throughout the park, and increased the access points from five to seventeen scattered throughout the park.
Walking into the camp store, you can see they’ve really tried to create a rustic décor experience. Many of the fixtures and trim were made from things found on the property. Their goal was to create a wilderness forest theme. From the old metal tin roof material and half-wagon wheel lining the front counter, to the wood used to make the doors look like old barn doors, most everything was found onsite. The Arnolds and their campground managers, Scott and Talena Eckerson, have really made good environmentally-conscious decisions when making changes and improvements around the property.
The Arnolds are also working to make sure every site is level by bringing in gravel and leveling it off. They’ve teamed up with a local trucker who owns a smaller dump truck capable of fitting in each site. He can slowly dump a layer of gravel on the site, and then the campground workers come behind and level it off. This is an ongoing process, but most every pull-through and back-in site is level.
Andrea also told me they brought an arborist in early on to clear out all the dead trees and tree limbs throughout the park. The smaller trees and branches are being turned into firewood, and the larger trees are being turned into lumber to be used on site.
Their goal is to add 12 glamping sites along the south side near one of the streams. Full disclosure, I had to ask what a glamping site was, figuring they were talking about the cabins. The glamping sites will be elevated tents with kitchenettes, bathrooms, and decks with portable fire pits facing the forest. The plan is to use some of the oak wood planks to create a “barn wall” look in each glamping site. These sites will also be equipped with wireless internet.
If you’re walking around the outer perimeter of the campground, or on the hiking trail, you’re apt to see deer, wild turkeys, an occasional fox, or even a bobcat. But one of the more comical animal sightings is the free-range chickens being wrangled by a white duck!
The inground pool, playground and community firepit are very well maintained.
With all Sandy and Andrea have already done, they know there is still more to do to make their HSVKOA the best it can possibly be. Besides the glamping sites, I asked what other plans they had in the works. Sandy told me they have already begun creating a road behind the outer row of back-in sites, and will be turning those into more pull-through sites. The Arnolds understand that campers love being able to have a pull-through site, especially if they are a large rig just stopping for the night. Not having to unhitch on a level site is always a plus.
On the opposite side of that road, they will be adding more back-in sites along the edge of the property. As I said before, the campground sits on 50 acres, but only a little over 20 acres are developed. The Arnolds have plenty of room to expand and are excited by the prospect.
The Arnolds are going to also be adding row of 100-foot-long back-in sites at a shallow angle, facing the forest near the glamping sites. A few of the sites on the upper end will also have a dog run, in keeping with their attempt to keep Fido happy as well. They know many people travel with their pets, and dogs need to run after a long day on the road. To that end, they currently have a small dog park, with plans to make a larger one soon.
Another need they are trying to fill is the request for rustic tent camping in the forest. This will involve putting a bathroom facility at the very top edge of the campground and campsites in the woods. Campers will park their vehicles in a small lot and hike up to their site in the woods.
They’re working on cleaning up the hiking path through the woods, and plan to add secondary spurs off the main path down and around the campground. This will allow people to enjoy nature walks without having to walk on the road and through the campground itself.
Some of the other perks include free coffee every morning in the office, made-to-order pizza they deliver to your site, and ice and firewood delivered to your site. The store also has sports equipment that is free to use, very clean bathhouses, and a modern laundry facility. Over half their sites are full hook-up, with half of those having 50 Amp service and large lots to accommodate bigger rigs. The rest are water/electric/cable or water/electric, and the Arnolds have really tried to keep as many trees as possible between the sites, to provide a buffer of privacy.
Talking to Sandy and Andrea, it is very clear they love their park and love what they do. They’ve attracted a great group of workers who are very friendly and willing to help.
If you’re ever on I-81 north of Harrisonburg, Virginia, it is definitely worth the 3-mile winding drive through the country to the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah Valley KOA.
P.S. Next week’s blog will be the next installment of Our Working Vacation: Paducah, Kentucky!
Jennifer Skinnell is also the author of the Hope Springs Romance Series available on Amazon. Check out her Amazon Author Page