Love your lifestyle? Make it a living

Posted by on April 19, 2012 at 8:58 am.

gay friendly rv park opensA decade ago, if anyone had told Derek Meade and Clinton St. Germain they would be running a RV park, they would have laughed. After all, they’d never even been in an RV.

Then they had an awful vacation.

Meade had rented a small cottage in Florida for the couple to enjoy while they were escaping the winter blahs. The cottage was terrible.

“It was really bad,” says St. Germain. “It was really tiny, it was in a bad neighborhood and it was in bad condition.”

Feeling miserable, Meade and St. Germain visited an RV campground near Disneyland on a friend’s suggestion. Enchanted by the park and the community, they came back the following year, and the year after that they showed up with a newly purchased trailer.

Meade is a freelance writer. St. Germain is a contractor and online business owner. Having jobs without nine to five commitments made it easy to get away.

For seven years, Meade and St. Germain followed the RV community in the United States. They travelled to parks hosting events that interested them. They made friends and then met those friends all over the country.

They were enchanted with the lifestyle, the people and the comfort of sleeping in their own beds, no matter where they found themselves.

A few years ago a campground went up for sale. It was a lovely property at a good price, close to family. They toured the property and loved it, and thought that owning an RV park was something they would enjoy.

The sale came and went. The property was sold before the couple had made an offer.

“We hemmed and hawed and then it sold,” laughs St. Germain. “We really regretted it at the time.”

A year later, the Hidden Valley campground showed up on the market. The parcel was lovely: a hundred acres bordering a small river and some marshland. This time Meade and St. Germain were ready.

The purchase was difficult and stressful. The previous owner had left the site in disrepair. The park had gained local notoriety for rowdy parties and undesirable visitors.

“It was an intimidating place to be,” says Meade.

Meade and St. Germain took ownership of the park on June 24 2010, well into the season and it was as if they had stepped on a beehive.

When the couple purchased the park, they attracted the curiosity of local news. When they decided to clean up the park and didn’t renew contracts for seasonal renters, they riled up community newspapers.

With media attention about the poor state of the park and talk of mass evictions, it seemed like everything was going wrong for the new owners.

But the reaction was better than they expected.

The gay and lesbian community immediately caught on: the new owners of the infamous Hidden Valley campground were a gay couple.

Soon the phones were flooded with calls inquiring if Meade and St. Germain were planning to open a gay and lesbian RV park.

“The response to the articles we had in the paper was so overwhelming,” says Meade. “We thought, ‘ok there’s this huge market here that is not being served.’ It would be a bad business decision not to open as a queer campground.”

Now Meade and St. Germain are preparing for the 2011 season. The park has been renamed the Riverside RV Campground. Landscaping and construction include building a pond and a drive-in style movie theatre.

“We want to turn it into a nice destination park for our community, the gay community,” says St. Germain.

With waterfront lots already booked for the season and only a month to go before the first long weekend, preparing the park is a full time job.

There is a bit of regret that, at least for a little while, there won’t be time to go on another RV trip.

“We’re hoping, in a few years, once the park is more established we can get away in the winter,” says St. Germain.

In the meantime, the two look forward to their first season as proud owners of the Riverside RV Campground.

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