A dispute between a California resort owner who says he is trying to improve his business and a neighbor who claims the improvements are illegal will be debated in front of the county planning commission this week.
According to the Fresno Bee, new owners of the 47-year-old Riverland RV Resort in Kingsburg, who advertise “water front vacation living,” stopped allowing public access to the park last year, and installed new fences and a security gate.
They then began selling “cedar cottages” – 399-square-foot park models – that will sit on poured concrete slabs on 38 sites along the Kings River and more around the 14-acre man-made lake that sits south of the river.
“Yes, it’s an RV park. Yes, it’s been there for years, and yes it’s OK for it to be used as an RV park. But it’s not OK for them to develop land in a flood plain, and it’s not OK to turn it into a subdivision,” said neighbor Betsy Tunnell, who along with her husband, Bill, owns 10 acres of riverfront property directly across the river from the resort.
“This is strictly an RV park. It’s not a time-share resort, and we’re not installing log cabins that can’t be moved,” said Dee Coleman, project manager for Riverland Real Property Investments, the company that purchased the park last year. “All we are doing is trying to improve the park, and lessen the impact on the river.”
For decades, the 43-acre park, along with a small motel and a nightclub, has had a loyal following of RVers, boaters and picnickers. A boat ramp was open to the public, and the campground saw a steady stream of visitors.
But along with the campers came problems, Coleman said.
The aging park was littered with trash, the facilities were falling apart, and too many people were crowding into too small of an area.
“It was clear to us that the area was definitely overused,” Coleman said. “So we decided to make some changes, to clean up the park and to change the way it was run.”
Among those changes were restrictions prohibiting RVs older than 12 years. Fences and gates were installed that keep everyone but registered campers away.
Roads were repaved and the swimming pool was replaced. Even the lake was refurbished with fountains to aerate the water, and overgrown reeds were taken out. A playground was installed, along with a business center offering high-speed Internet access.
The motel was closed, and there are no plans to reopen it until it can be refurbished to match the rest of the park.
“We wanted to improve the property,” Coleman said. “We wanted to reduce the impact on the river by reducing the number of campsites and the number of people in the park at any one time.”
Tunnell, who said she never had problems with Riverland until the ownership change last year, said she applauds the efforts to clean up the park. But, she said, her concerns are more for the river and the riparian land that surrounds it.
“Basically, that park sits on a flood plain, over which there is an approved recreational use,” Tunnell said. “A condition of their use permits prohibits permanent occupancy, but the cottages are designed for just that.”