Preliminary plans for KOA campground in Great Cacapon submitted to county

by Kate Shunney

A development company has asked Morgan County planners to review their plans for a 48-acre, 173-site campground just east of Great Cacapon below the Panorama Overlook.

The owner of the property is listed as Two Rivers Land Co. LLC of Berkeley Springs and the developer of record is Scenic LLC, also of Berkeley Springs. Aaron Bills is the managing member of both companies.

In a 63-page preliminary plat submittal to the Morgan County Planning office, the developer’s engineers outlined their building and infrastructure plans for what they call the “Berkeley Springs KOA.” KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America, a brand of over 500 private campgrounds across the U.S.

Preliminary plans for a KOA campground in Great Cacapon have been submitted to the Morgan County Planning office.

According to the preliminary campground plans and Bills, he expects construction of the Great Cacapon project to take roughly eight months once plans are approved and construction begins.

Greenway Engineering of Winchester, Va. prepared the preliminary plat drawings and is the engineer of record for the project.

The proposed project is a recreational vehicle campground at 4624 Cacapon Road, on the old Noland farm, which Bills and his wife purchased in 2018.

The property is bounded on the north by the CSX railroad and on the west by the Cacapon River.

Campground plans include 60 back-in RV sites, 85 pull-through RV sites, 16 cabins, eight yurts and four tents.

“The new campground will consist of a ring road pattern campground with a series of one-way and two-way roads,” the project summary says. “Campsites are considered ‘oversized’ and will feature a mix of finishes including patios, fire rings, picnic tables.”

“The campground will consist of core operational facilities including check-in/office building and a maintenance building. Amenities will include a swimming pool, bathhouse facilities, mini-golf, multi-purpose sport court, a large fire ring, 3 multiage play areas, fenced dog parks (Kamp K-9 sites), an area for food trucks and several pavilions.

“The site will have staging areas in front of the office for easy check-ins, a traffic circle, and have 148 parking spaces and 18 handicap spaces scattered throughout the community. Facilities to support electric vehicle (EV) charging are anticipated,” the preliminary plans say.

Plat drawings show multiple views of the campground, including stormwater management facilities, water and sewer infrastructure, roads and parking spaces, trash and recycling facilities, water wells and storage tanks and sewage pumping stations.

The Warm Springs Public Service District has been approached about providing wastewater treatment service to the campground off the existing Great Cacapon public sewer system. Some kind of sewer pipe connection would have to be run between the village’s sewer system on the west side of the Cacapon River to the campground on the east side of the river. Public sewer officials are seeking more detailed information from the developer about the plans.

Bills said that connection would likely involve horizontal drilling under the river to run a double-layer wastewater pipe.

Printed plans propose a force main sewer pipe, a grinder sewer pump station and an estimated daily flow of 24,580 gallons of wastewater per day when the full development of 241 sites is built.

A Phase 2 of the campground could add another 68 units.

Plans also show sketches of a 33,820-gallon water storage tank that is 26 feet high and 15 feet in diameter. Wells are the proposed source of water for the campground. Bills said two wells have already been drilled and can provide the water needed for the project.

The main entrance to the KOA campground is proposed to the west of an existing barn building.

Bills said in discussions with the Division of Highways, engineers have proposed a deceleration lane that would let RVs slow down and get out of the main lane of Cacapon Road as they prepare to pull into the campground.

Plans also show wooded areas to the west of the campground loop would remain intact, and extensive landscaping and tree-planting would shield the campground from Cacapon Road.

County planner and GIS director Alex Moore said last week the county’s consulting engineers will review preliminary plans to see if they meet the county’s subdivision and floodplain ordinances.

Plans won’t come before the county’s Planning Commission  until a long list of permits are finalized. These include a Division of Highways (DOH) highway entrance permit, well and septic permits from the Health Department, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for stormwater management and any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits for wetland disturbance.

Bills said he didn’t purchase the Noland farm with the idea of creating a campground. His family already had a second home in Berkeley Springs for their own enjoyment, and they had been getting to know the area.

After buying the Great Cacapon property, Bills said he started thinking about the lack of camping facilities in the county. That fit his personal interests in outdoor recreation and his background as an entrepreneur, so he started investigating options for designing and running a campground. A third-party feasibility study confirmed his feeling that a campground would be successful here.

Bills said he reached out to KOA about their franchise options, and liked their “standards-driven” approach to running campgrounds with a certain level of amenities.

“It’s a recipe and it’s a good one,” said Bills. “They’re successful and we’ll be successful with their help.”

Bills thinks a KOA campground will be a good “home base” for RV campers to stay for several days or a week to explore Morgan County and the surrounding areas.

“People are coming to Berkeley Springs as a destination,” he said.

Partnering with other local businesses is a priority for Bills, he said. He wants to attract other entrepreneurs to bring food, arts experiences, recreation options and services to campers.

“There’s probably going to be ripples of other things,” he said. “There will be a lot of opportunity to build on that.”

Bills said a lot of time has been spent “thinking through the design” of the proposed campground, so that it fits into the natural surroundings and encourages campers to connect as families, then go explore the area.

“We tried to design the campground people will want to be staying at five or 10 years from now,” he said. “We’re trying to put in something the community will be proud of.”

A public review of the campground plans will come before the Morgan County Planning Commission once required permits have been secured.