Widow Transforms Park into TACO’s ‘Park of the Year’
Many entrepreneurs know how hard it is to transform a money-losing disaster of a park into an attractive and profitable campground.
Michele Conrey started on her turnaround journey in 2011, when her husband, Ron, purchased Lakeland RV Ranch in Farmersville, Texas, about 20 miles north of Dallas.
The eight-acre park featured a homeless man, a camel, a blind donkey and eight RVs up to their axles in mud. Michele’s task became an even greater challenge a year later, when her husband died, leaving her to fix up the park on her own while she continued to work as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) for CVS Pharmacy.
But Michele never gave up, and with the help of a new friend, Allen Forsythe, she not only cleaned up the park but transformed it over a 10-year-period into a highly sought-after 85-site park that recently won the Park of the Year Award from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) in the small/medium-size park category in April.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Michele said after receiving the award during TACO’s annual Spring Meeting and Convention in Conroe, Texas.
Before purchasing Lakeland RV Ranch, Michele and her late husband had originally planned to pursue their bucket list dream of becoming full-time RVers. But Ron did not like the full-time RV lifestyle and preferred the idea of purchasing a campground and fixing it up. Michele said she cried when he described Lakeland RV Ranch because it sounded like such a disaster.
And it was.
None of the eight RVers living on-site were paying anything for their spaces. The Conreys, thus, had to evict them and begin the daunting task of cleaning up the park without any money coming in, aside from the money Michele earned from her CVS job.
It was a daunting task. But over time, the Conreys succeeded in removing the existing RVers and cleaning up the park. They had literally just fixed up an existing A-frame building on site when it caught fire and burned down. Ron passed away soon after that, leaving Michele with the rest of the work to do on her own. She later met Allen Forsythe, who had experience with construction work, and together they continued to turn the park around, building a new house on the property, which would double as an office.
In 2014, they added 16 pull-through sites, and then later added three more, bringing the park to 27 sites, most of which they rented to traveling workers who needed a place to stay.
“We kept expanding, and every time we expanded, we would have RVers waiting to get into the park,” Michele said, adding that she also cleared some of the acreage for pasture for a couple of Clydesdale horses and three alpacas, replacing the donkey and the camel.
In 2017, Allen, who was also a musician, came up with the idea of starting an annual music festival at the park, which they called the Boondock Music Festival. The festival, which features a combination of country music, rock, rhythm and blues, proved to be so successful that Michele and Allen have continued to host the event on the first Saturday of October each year.
Meanwhile, the park expansions continued. In 2018, Michele purchased another 5.5 acres and worked with Allen to add another 27 pull-through RV sites, doubling the size of the park. Later, in 2021, they bought another eight acres and added another 32 pull-through sites, expanding the park to 21 acres with 85 sites.
Michele and Allen also built a dog park with an agility course and acquired more animals, including more than 50 ducks, chickens and guineas. Fresh eggs are available for park guests.
Michele said she has been attending TACO’s annual conventions and picking up advice from other park operators along the way. Michele’s son, Jon Conrey, has also helped the business by providing excellent customer service and is often mentioned in the park’s online reviews. Winning the TACO’s Park of the Year Award marks the beginning of a new chapter in her life, she said, having successfully transformed Lakeland RV Ranch from a disaster into a highly sought-after destination.
More information is available at LakelandRVRanch.com.