Last spring, as gas prices rocketed to record levels, Todd Golebiewski thought he’d better do something creative to make River View Campground and Canoe Livery enticing to Detroit area residents looking for an affordable weekend.

So he built four cabins. That way, people could still come to his park to camp without having the expense of driving their RV up north for the weekend.

“We couldn’t believe the response,” said Golebieski, who co-owns the campground with Al and Joanne Schmid. “I don’t think we’ve had one weekend where the cabins haven’t been rented during the busy season. In fact, the cabins went over so well last season that we’re building two more cabins this spring, which will be ready soon.”

And even though the economy remains in recession, Golebiewski and the Schmids are seeing continuing strong demand for their cabin rentals, which they expect to continue through the summer camping season, according to a news release from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

Bouyed by their success, Golebiewski and the Schmids are also moving ahead with other improvements, including the addition of 22 additional full-service campsites; the additional of sewer and communications cabling for 16 existing sites as well as a new restroom, shower and laundry facility. And since their park fronts the Rifle River, they also find it worthwhile to invest in additional rental equipment, including 26 new Old Town canoes and 200 new river tubes. They are also purchasing two transit buses.

The campground’s owners are also expanding its Wi-Fi system to extend coverage throughout the 120-acre campground and are investing in new software to more efficiently operate the campground and canoe rental business.

And if that’s not enough, Golebiewski and the Schmids have also updated their website, www.riverviewcampground.com, and included Facebook and Twitter updates. All told, Golebiewski thinks they will have spent more than $200,000 in improvements during the past two years. But he believes the investments are worth it.

According to ARVC, other Michigan campground operators have a similar outlook and are moving ahead with improvements this year, despite the recession. They include:

  •  Insta Launch Campground and Marina,  Manistee: This park, located on the Big Manistee River near Lake Michigan, is spending more than $10,000 on a variety of improvements, which include a new satellite television service as a free amenity for the park’s rental units and full-hookup campsite customers, and a new solar system for its store and bathhouse.
  •  Sandy Pines, Hopkins: This 2,220-site park plans to invest in numerous green initiatives this year, including $44,000 for a solar water heating system for two of its five swimming pools. The park is also changing its pool cleaning system from chlorine to salt water, with the conversion costing about $2,900 for one outdoor pool and $4,900 for the family pool. The conversion is expected to pay for itself over a single summer or a summer and a half. Sandy Pines is also investing in a geothermal heating and cooling system, which will be used to heat and cool the park’s laundry, store, beauty shop, donut shop and other park buildings.