At a wooded campsite in Santa Paula, north of Los Angeles, vacationers, stray deer and even peacocks must share the tree-shaded property with tractors, backhoes and stacks of lumber.
Work is in full swing to transform the 76-acre Ventura Ranch Kampgrounds of America site into one of a fast-growing breed of affordable outdoor destinations or resort campgrounds.
Workers have already added new lodges and upscale tepees and installed two 800-foot-long zip lines. Construction has begun on a pool and water slides to open by this summer. A backhoe is moving dirt for a new playground area, and the park owner has plans for four treehouses near the banks of the Santa Paula Creek.
“It’s kind of a new version of camping,” Kampgrounds of America campsite guest Desiree Dennis said as her four children took turns strapping on harnesses, hooking themselves to pulleys and flying downhill along zip-line cables stretched between two elevated platforms. “It brings families together.”
Zip lines, swimming pools and other campground extras typify changes underway across the nation at Kampgrounds of America, or KOA, the nation’s largest private network of campgrounds, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Instead of offering rest stops on the way to vacation destinations, KOA wants to add enough activities to convert its modest overnight campgrounds into final destinations for traveling families.