tampabay.com

New frontier was challenging

By LOGAN NEILL
Published March 8, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - At the height of the summer during his first year as owner of a brand new KOA campground, Bob McGlashen thought he might have made a mistake. He couldn't understand why, during what was the peak of tourist season in his native Michigan, his newly opened Frontier Campground was all but deserted.

"I quickly found out that people down here don't go camping when it's hot," said McGlashen. "From June through September, I don't think I had more than a couple dozen customers."

Despite his initial frustration, McGlashen decided not to throw in the towel. Instead, he decided he would do whatever it took to keep his business afloat.

Which is one reason McGlashen is thrilled to be hosting Frontier Campground's 35th anniversary this weekend. The fact that the business not only has survived, but has thrived, is a testament to his undying belief that if you create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, people are bound to return again and again.

"We cater to people who enjoy having a good time," McGlashen said. "When you treat people right, you make friends for life. They almost become part of your family."

With its 120 RV spots, the 120-acre campground west of Brooksville on Cortez Boulevard is a hive of activity this time of year. Snowbirds from all corners of the country make up temporary neighborhoods that are probably not too different from their hometowns.

According to resident Marv Sweet, the laid-back atmosphere of the park makes it hard to leave. In fact, once he settled his 25-foot travel trailer in 1982, he decided to make it his permanent home.

"It just fit my lifestyle," Sweet said, as he finished readying a flatbed trailer that will serve as a stage for this weekend's festivities. "People who live here are nice. No one cares how rich or how poor you are. If you need help, someone's always around to give it to you."

When McGlashen opened Frontier Campground in 1972, Hernando County's population barely topped 17,000. On a typical day, fewer than 400 cars could be counted on the two lanes of blacktop that stretched between Brooksville and Weeki Wachee.

As optimistic as McGlashen was about his venture, he knew he had to do something to help make ends meet. He invested money into transforming a portion of the back of his property into 70 permanent lots for mobile homes.

It worked. Within a year, McGlashen had turned enough profit to enable him to settle his debts and to eventually sever his business ties with KOA.

"Doing that allowed me to run the campground the way I felt it needed to be run," McGlashen said.

The close-knit community not only watches over itself, it tries to make life a little more interesting by organizing occasional barbecues, bingo, card games, pool tournaments and dances.

In addition to a talent show tonight, which is open only to park residents, the public will be invited to take part in several events, including a street dance at 7 p.m. Friday, a golf cart parade at 1 p.m. Saturday and a gospel concert at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

IF YOU GO

Join the party

The public is invited to help mark the 35th anniversary of Frontier Campground during a street dance at 7 p.m. Friday, a golf cart parade at 1 p.m. Saturday and gospel concert at 7 p.m. Sunday. Frontier Campground is located at 15549 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. For information, call 796-9988.