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So, You Want to Build a Campground: Planning, Pitfalls and Process

Since the pandemic, an even greater desire to embrace the outdoors has taken hold in the United States. With this, many families have decided to chuck the standard vacation and pursue the simplicity of camping. However, this isn’t your grandparents’ camping. Today’s newer campers want comfort, convenience, and high-end amenities to fully experience nature at its finest. This has led to increased demand for updated and modern campgrounds. But, before you invest, it is best to consult the experts to determine if the payoff is worth the price.

Feasibility Study & Fit Plan

Once you have a property in mind, the first step as part of your preliminary due diligence is to request a Feasibility Study and Fit Plan. A qualified design team will look at the proposed site to determine if there are any “fatal flaws” that would prevent the future development from meeting your vision and your financial expectations. Such factors could include but are not limited to steep slopes, significant wetlands, floodplains, etc. If these prove to be non-issues, then logistical questions need to be addressed such as:

  • How will construction teams get to and move around the site?
  • What utility services are needed and how do you provide them for your campers?
  • Does the topography or regulatory zoning limit the development?
  • Does the site allow for future expansion opportunities?
  • How many campsites will fit on the property?

If the responses to the above can be answered to your satisfaction, you can move to the conceptual design phase keeping in mind that you’re designing a campground, and not a residential subdivision. This phase will address and answer more specific questions, including:

  • How will the design enhance the customer experience?
  • Where will individual components be located on the site (campsites, amenities, buildings, roadways, trails, treatment facilities, maintenance, etc…)?
  • What kind of structures will be needed?
  • What permits might be required for the project site?
  • How long will it take to build?
  • What are the construction and project costs?

Getting the answers to these questions is the best way to maximize your investment, avoid common pitfalls, and ensure project completion. Too often the preliminary due diligence is overlooked or shortened which only leads to unwanted surprises and delays down the road. It is critical to partner with an experienced campground design team that knows what to look for when considering a new project.

30% Design Development

The due diligence is done, the questions are answered and it’s time to move forward. The next step is the 30% Design Development. This phase involves a deep dive into the design details to showcase how all the campground systems work together. It allows the design team to verify that the campground conceptual design will work as anticipated or gives them the opportunity to modify the conceptual design based upon further analysis. Some factors that may necessitate changes are underlying ground conditions or changes warranted by local building codes.

This phase of the design process will address:

  • Economizing sanitary, water, and electrical system designs
  • Managing stormwater
  • Developing safe roadways and pedestrian pathways
  • Exploring design and delivery options for amenities and buildings
  • Updated project timeline and costs
  • Concerns for permit submittals

When all involved parties are satisfied with the 30% Design Development the design team can move on to the next phase, construction documents.

Construction Documents

To anticipate the outcome of your project and to receive permits to proceed, professional construction documents need to be prepared. Documents may include technical specifications, construction details, a detailed cost estimate, and a construction schedule. These documents are necessary to apply for required environmental reports and to receive approvals from the local and/or state agencies that control zoning, utilities, and building codes. If done right, these documents will advance the design details only far enough to secure your permits and approvals and assist you in engaging the appropriate contractor for the job.

Build It/Construction

Once the Construction Documents are complete, and approvals secured, you now have all the tools in the toolbox to proceed with construction of your campground. Again, you need to ensure that the right people are on your team. Using an experienced campground designer, like Environmental Design Group, can help move you to the finish line.

We can assist with:

  • Bidding services
  • Contract assistance and execution
  • Field construction oversight (inspections)
  • Submittal and shop drawing review
  • Change order management
  • Pay application review
  • Punch list and project closeout

A campground is an exciting project and when done correctly, a lucrative investment. However, there are many components to consider that are unique to campground development.  Engaging an experienced campground design team is a critical step to assist in avoiding common errors and pitfalls and creating an effective and smooth process. The team at Environmental Design Group is here to help. Learn more about our campground services and review past projects by visiting our website at: Campgrounds - Environmental Design Group (

As “The Community Impact People,” Environmental Design Group (EDG) specializes in developing campgrounds that combine quality guest experiences with dynamic destinations. With more than 10 years of experience in the campground industry, we have provided planning, design, engineering and construction management services, along with marketing and communication strategies, for campground Owners and Investors across the country.

Our campground team is led by Stefanie Smith, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Camps & Campgrounds, Dave McCallops, P.E., Director of Water Resources, and Tammi Nagucki, CPSM, Principal of Marketing, Client Experience & EDG Creative.


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