Holly Shores
Holly Shores Camp & Resort owners Maggy and Dave Robinson reinvest $75,000 to $100,000 each year back into the business to make sure it's in tiptop shape for its summer guests.

The tourist season is off to a great start at Holly Shores Camp & Resort, in the Cold Spring section of Lower Township.

"This is one of the strongest springs we've ever had here," said Dave Robinson, 61, who co-owns the campground with his wife, Maggy, 54. "We're up at least 20 (percent) to 25 percent from last year."

That may be an indicator for the shore market, or it may just show what's possible when you believe as the Robinsons do that levels of business don't just happen, they're developed.

"We're putting $75,000 to $100,000 back into the campground this year, and that's typical of what we do every year," Robinson said.

Their 12 years of work and reinvestment has brought success and also recognition: Holly Shores is this year's Park of the Year in the large park category, the highest honor from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

"Our goal now is to maintain that standard, to keep our camping at the state of the art," Robinson said.

This year that means rebuilding the pool, taking out the concrete from the 1970s and surrounding it with a new deck.

"We used a Kool Deck coating so the surface temperature never goes above 70 degrees, even in full sun," he said.

Neon lights were placed in the pool and a small waterfall was created on the side, but a more important change will be felt rather than seen.

The pool's water will be kept safe and easier on the guests and environment with a new system that generates chlorine from a salt solution, he said.

"It's like a water softening system. The water's drawn back through electrified equipment that changes the salt into a softer chlorine that's easier on the eyes and clothing," Robinson said. "It's the future of pool technology."

The other major improvement is to the campsites, giving guests a clean surface surrounding their recreational vehicles.

The park has installed landscape ties around the concrete pads at the sites, put paper down and covered it with 3/4 inch stone, he said.

"People don't want dirt when they go camping. They want a nice, clean site for their motorhome or RV," he said.

That will appeal to a core market for Holly Shores - French Canadian tourists.

French Canadians are 90 percent of Holly Shores' business from July 4 to mid-August, Robinson said, and bookings for that season already look good.

"They want clean, clean, clean and quiet," he said. "They want to go to bed early, get up early and go to the beach with its warm water."

At the park, Holly Shores offers a long list of amenities: shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball, two baby pools, a hot tub and regular activities led by a full-time activities director.

"We also have a huge dog park and people love it. We're very pet friendly," Robinson said.

Jay Otto, co-executive director of the New Jersey Campground Association, said campground reservations have been good this year, especially in Cape May County.

"The only category that's off is seasonal campers, people renting the site for the entire summer," Otto said, adding that reflects cutting back to shorter vacations due to the economy.

He said the county, where the association is based in Cape May Court House, "probably has the highest concentration of campgrounds in the United States, and they tend to be large campgrounds. In Cape May County alone, there are 15,000 campsites. And it all started because of the beaches."

The Robinsons' park was failing to keep up with the competition before they bought it.

Dave Robinson said it was on the verge of being downgraded to two stars in the popular Woodall's campground guide. They've had it at the top five-star rating for four years now.

Previously, Robinson was a salesman for Pella Windows and his wife was a registered nurse.

But Maggy Robinson grew up working in the campground industry at her parents' Beachcomber Camping Resort nearby and Big Timber Lake Family Camping Resort in Cape May Court House, so she and her family supplied the necessary experience.

Dave Robinson wouldn't disclose the campground's revenue, but said it's a good business once you work hard to get there.

"The number of days I was in the trenches pulling wire through the mud and covered with mosquitoes is unbelievable, when I look back on everything we've done," he said.

After that, the improvements and reinvestment every year must seem a bit easier.

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