Made in the Shady
Shady Creek RV Park & Campground
By TARA DEERING
Chuck Haines knew what he was getting into. Growing up, he saw what it took for his father and mother to maintain the 46 acres that comprised their campground in Monroe, Mich. So when he left sunny California to return home and take over operations of Shady Creek RV Park & Campground, Haines knew that the facility would consume all of his time. With aspirations of improving the campground, Haines realized he would have to find a new way of doing things if he planned to fit in more than just day-to-day upkeep.
Now more than a decade later, Haines has acquired a small fleet of compact equipment that allows him to do tasks that would typically be performed by a subcontractor. Not only is he able to keep up with regular maintenance, he can handle also emergency situations, such as broken waterlines, and make major improvements beyond his parents' wildest dreams.
During the past 15 years, Haines says the campground has changed significantly. When his parents managed Shady Creek, it was visited primarily by tent campers and day-passers. In order to attract longer-term campers with recreational vehicles, one of the first improvements Haines made was to install full hookups for each 40-by-80-foot lot, which allowed campers access to water, sewer and electric. He also increased the number of available lots from 66 to 100.
"The camping market is growing enormously," Haines says. "We have a lot of people who come in and stay by the month. We also get a lot of weekly and monthly campers."
Haines attests that much of the growth has resulted from word of mouth. However, he also has marketed the campground to business travelers, such as construction workers and flight attendants, who are temporarily staying in the Detroit area and would like an alternative to living in hotels or public dorms.
Atypical of most campgrounds in colder climates, Shady Creek remains open year-round.
"We stay real busy; even in the winter, we keep about 50 trailers in here," Haines says. And that number nearly doubles in the summer.
As the number of people setting up camp at Shady Creek grew, so did the amount of work Haines found himself having to tackle.
Two years ago Haines happened across a piece of equipment he thought would make a few of his daily tasks around the campground easier. Originally, he says he bought the Toolcat 5600 utility work machine, manufactured by Bobcat Company, to plow snow and clean fire pits. But in the time that has passed, he has found many more uses for the unique machine that combines a utility loader, pickup truck and attachment carrier into one.
"The Toolcat 5600 gets used daily," he says. "We use it for hauling firewood, fertilizer, plants and picnic tables to different places around the campground. With the pallet forks on the front of the machine, you can see what you're doing when loading materials, whereas with tractors, you can't."
Haines says the utility work machine has made him more multi-functional because, in addition to using the machine to drill a hole to plant a tree, he also can carry the tree and other supplies needed to complete the job in the 2,000-pound capacity cargo box. As a campground owner, keeping the lawns looking neat, clean and rut-free is a major consideration. One of the things that impressed Haines about the machine was its all-wheel steering, which enables him to travel into smaller areas while exerting minimal ground disturbance. In fact, the machine was so lawn-friendly that Haines used it like a golf cart to monitor the grounds, ensuring campers stayed out of restricted areas.