New owners plan campground changes

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON The pond at Walnut Grove Campground is seen from the facility’s house.

 

The new owners of Walnut Grove Campground got started this fall and look forward to their first full season as partners starting next spring.

In the meantime, they’ve been sprucing up and making plans for winter maintenance and upgrades.

Steve Guilkey is back as one of the owners of the property at 7325 S. TR 131. But this time, he has partners Pat and Darlene Mack and Dan and Tonya Reinhart.

Guilkey, who owned the 50-acre campground for 18 years before selling it 13 years ago, also owns Island View Campground, 560 CH 35, McCutchenville.

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON The partners who own Walnut Grove Campground and family members involved in the project include (front, from left) Sonia Kimmet holding Henry Kimmet, Darlene Mack holding Sam Kimmet, Pat Mack, Katie Pinkston, Steve Guilkey, Dan Reinhart, Tonya Reinhart, Kendra Kinn holding Sawyer Kinn and Tim Kinn holding Harper Kinn, (back from left) Andrew Mack, Mitch Reinhart and Jason Mack.

When he heard 13-year owner Chris Rubeck was planning to sell, he mentioned it one evening.

“I have a lot of good friends here. Some campers have been here since I owned it before — like 20-some years,” Guilkey said.

He was thinking about buying it back.

“We were having a beer and it came up,” he said. “We just got to talking over the summer.”

So the plan was born.

Guilkey, the Macks and the Reinharts would form a partnership to purchase the business. And they all would work on upgrades, maintenance and marketing.

Since they closed the transaction in late August, the new owners have begun work.

“We like a challenge,” said Pat Mack. “We like to fix things up and make them better for the community.”

The families of the partners also are involved — from children in their 20s to grandchildren.

“Right now, the grandkids are trying out the playground equipment,” Darlene Mack said.

“We’re really impressed with the permanent campers here, their pride,” Dan Reinhart said. “They have their own campground committee that wants to make improvements.”

In addition, Reinhart said they host a benefit every year to assist people with cancer.

“They do it the whole season,” he said. They sell raffle tickets, sponsor a golf cart poker run and host a fall haunted hayride.

The community also has a playground committee interested in maintaining and adding playground equipment as needed.

The partners said they encourage the campers’ continued involvement.

Reinhart said he was impressed with the organization behind a haunted hayride that took place a couple weeks ago.

The Reinharts and Macks have been campers for more than 30 years, so they were familiar with most aspects of the campground. And they have a vision for upgrades.

Some of the visible improvements made in September and October include painting the pool house, upgrading showers, placing rocks around the front pond and work on adding a sand volleyball court near the pool.

“We are working on changes to the sewer system and electrical, and just cleaning up the grounds,” Pat Mack said.

“He’s the equipment guy,” Dan Reinhart said. “He’s the big change guy. That’s for sure.”

After the campground closes for the season Oct. 31, Pat Mack said infrastructure changes are planned in the water, sewer and electrical systems. They plan to upgrade canoe access on the river, improve the parking lot, widen some driveways, repair roads and cut dead ash trees.

“There’s just never been a better time to come in and look at permanent sites because there are lot available now,” Darlene Mack said. “There’s a lot of area for people to spread out and enjoy.”

Walnut Grove has spots for 130 permanent campers and 95 weekend sites, plus additional sites for tents.

Along with seasonal campers, monthly, weekend or overnight campers are welcome.

Fall traditionally is the time of year to reserve spots for next summer.

“You can get a choice lot,” Guilkey said. “Now’s the time to pick.”

Spots are available in the lower level along the Sandusky River and in the upper level.

“Seventy sites are down by the river,” Darlene Mack said. “Huge shade trees. A playground.”

The campground offers pull-through options as well as back-in sites. There are group sites with shelters and tent sites.

Most sites offer full hook-ups, electric and sewer. The grounds also has a dump station, laundry facilities, propane and repair service.

The group is focusing marketing on the facilities available. Right now, their Facebook page is updated regularly and plans are under way for a new website.

Further plans include developing a logo and offering T-shirts, hats and jackets.

“We want to make it a point of pride in the community,” Darlene Mack said.

The campground already hosts live bands in the Great Hall, and local fire departments have benefits there.

But the partners are planning to increase musical offerings.

Darlene Mack said musician Eric Sowers is scheduled for a concert on the grounds June 24, and they hope to make music a regular part of activities. Concerts are to be open to the public.

“We want to showcase the local talent to support our local entertainers,” she said.

Beginning next season, Tonya Reinhart said the group plans to rent out the Olympic-size swimming pool and the pool house for evening birthday parties and other private parties for about 30 people.

Pool passes are to be available to the public, and day passes are to be available for people renting facilities on the grounds.

The partners also plan to offer public swimming lessons and water exercise classes.

The Great Hall is available to rent for wedding receptions, company picnics, family reunions or class reunions.

In addition to the pool, activities include river access, canoes and kayaks, wildlife viewing, picnicking, a game room, a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, horseshoe pits, paddle boats and fishing.

The campground store is open to the public for beer, wine, ice, camping and fishing supplies or general groceries.

Founded 72 years ago, the first owner of Walnut Grove was Henry Hossler, who owned it for 30 years. Dan and Sue Goodwin owned the business for the next 11 years, followed by Guilkey for 18 years and Rubeck for 13 years.

For more information, call (419) 448-0914 or search “Walnut Grove Campground” on Facebook.

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