BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – They used to hit golf balls there, and then they raced go-carts around on it. But a vacant hillside on Fort Madison’s east side is now transitioning into an RV park.
Jon Heyland, owner of Floorcrafters just down the hill, is working with one of the premiere RV park designers in the world in Rich Stockwell, out of La Connor, Wash. to create an upscale short-stay park overlooking the scenic drop to the Mississippi River.
Heyland said the new project will be an investor-based partnership with Stockwell handling the design and facilitating the construction of the park.
“This guy is one of the top RV park designers in the world – and I just called him,” Heyland said.
“He thinks the property is just prime for what they want to do.”
The property is not within city limits so it is still part of the county, but Heyland said he hopes the city chooses to annex the property so the park can have connected water and sewer. He said if that doesn’t happen, he will have to install septic tanks.
He said city officials have been supportive of the new endeavor.
Stockwell said his timeline would be to have the park ready for RV travelers in the spring of 2022. He said it’s a nice coincidental development considering the city is looking to open a new marina close to the same time.
“They’re gonna rehab that marina and it’s gonna be a nice contrast to that,” Stockwell said. “Most people talk about what we bring in and these RVs are really land yachts. Some are more than 40 feet long and way over the top.”
Stockwell didn’t elaborate on the number of RV pads he’s looking to put on the property, but said the parks have to provide plenty of space for those staying, so it won’t be a big number.
“The number of lots is not going to be huge, and you wouldn’t want it huge. But it will be enough for everyone to have plenty of space so they aren’t jammed together,” Stockwell said.
“It’s been quite true over the years that people built these so tight that they all learned to snore together. We don’t want to do that. We want it low density.”
Stockwell has been a part of more than 1,000 park developments in North America. He will be recommending a club house be built so travelers can get together and converse, play games and enjoy each other’s company. He said most of his parks have club houses for those staying on the property.
Stockwell looked at photos, including aerial photos of the property, and he immediately responded.
“He’s got a beautiful spot there. One of the pictures he sent you’re looking down into Fort Madison. It’s a stunning view and beautiful location. It’s just a great spot for the type of RV park that will bring travelers,” Stockwell said.
“I just need to turn my staff loose, but it looks like a home run.”
Stockwell said RV traveling is at an all-time high, and people doing that kind of vacationing are looking for places with stunning views, history and a chance to get away from bigger cities.
Heyland, who’s been talking with Stockwell for about 18 months, said he didn’t realize there was so much money invested in RVs. He said the park will be geared toward the two to three-day stays up to a couple weeks, but nothing that would be geared toward long-term seasonal stays.
“These are the people that are gonna come and are looking for a place to vacation and just get away from everything. There are a lots of things in this area to see,” he said.