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Illinois Campground Association Welcomes New Leadership at Statewide Spring Meetings

The Illinois Campground Association (ICA) introduced its newly appointed executive director, Donald G. Bennett, Jr., during two spring meetings on April 23 and 24, aimed at discussing the future of camping and hospitality in Illinois. 

The meetings, held in northern and southern parts of the state, brought together campground operators to forge a path forward for the industry under new leadership.

Bennett, who heads Merchantry Tourism, LLC in Pittsford, New York, took the helm following a February decision by the ICA’s board of directors to have his firm manage the association’s day-to-day operations. 

Bennett’s introduction to the association’s members marks a significant step in the ICA’s strategy to enhance service and support for campground and outdoor hospitality operators across Illinois.

The northern Illinois meeting, hosted by Jamie Rogers at Mendota Hills Campground in Amboy, and the southern meeting, hosted by Jeff and Kate Tuxhorn at Country Bend Campground in Litchfield, collectively saw representation from 24 parks. This level of participation underscores the engaged nature of the community and the critical timing of these discussions as camping season approaches.

Bennett’s presentations covered a range of topics crucial for the advancement of the industry, including association activities, member services, advocacy efforts, and promotional strategies. The discussion also integrated issues directly from the campground operators, such as grant funding, taxation, reservation systems, and legislative advocacy, which attendees had identified as significant in their RSVPs.

One of the highlighted discussions was centered around the upcoming centennial celebration of Route 66, which presents unique promotional opportunities for the industry. Bennett noted the proactive engagement of the members, saying, “I was very impressed with both the quality and quantity of topics sent ahead of the meetings.”

“It made for very productive meetings at both locations. It also confirms that the park operators are engaged with their association and there is much work to be done on many fronts to address their needs and interests,” Bennett added.

The turnout at the meetings was robust despite concerns about the timing, as many operators are in the midst of preparing for the high season. BJ Davis, the president of ICA’s board and owner of Rustic Acres Jellystone Park in New Douglas, commented on the energetic response to the meetings and Bennett’s leadership.

Attendees like Mike Hasty, manager at Condit’s Ranch in Putnam, expressed newfound appreciation for the association’s role and the tangible benefits it offers to its members.

“After attending this meeting, I realized what ICA is doing for us,” Hasty remarked.

Adding to the practical insights shared at the meetings, guest speaker Jeff Lazarus, owner of Smart Industry Products, discussed how campground operators could boost their revenue through retail operations. Lazarus’s company provides essential campground supplies and is a prime example of how vendors are aligning with campground needs across the state.

Both hosts of the meetings, Jamie Rogers and Kate Tuxhorn, highlighted the value of these gatherings in fostering a sense of community and forward momentum within the industry. Tuxhorn shared her enthusiasm for the ongoing improvements within the ICA, hopeful that more campground owners will recognize and capitalize on the benefits of active membership.

The meetings not only facilitated strategic discussions but also offered networking opportunities, with attendees enjoying lunches and tours of the host facilities. These interactions underscore the association’s role in not just addressing operational challenges but also in building a community among campground operators.

In his closing remarks, Bennett outlined the shared challenges faced by campground operators, such as operational efficiency, safety, customer service, and navigating governmental red tape. He reaffirmed the board’s commitment to advocating and supporting its members through these challenges.

The Illinois Campground Association continues its mission to enhance family camping experiences in Illinois through education, promotion, and comprehensive support for campground operators and related businesses. For more information about the association and its initiatives, visit www.IllinoisGoCamping.com.

Featured image by Jamie Rogers / Illinois Campground Association via merchantrytourism.com

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Karen Hill
Karen Hill
May 2, 2024 10:23 pm

Isn’t it cool how Bennett’s taking the lead at the Illinois Campground Association? They’re gearing up to launch an online hub for campground operators to get top-notch industry tips and tricks. Plus, a new mentorship program is in the works to help operators level up their management skills. What do you think about these exciting developments?

May 3, 2024 5:44 am
Reply to  Karen Hill

Acknowledging Bennett stepping up at the Illinois Campground Association is pretty awesome. It’s great to see new leadership making moves! What are your thoughts on the exciting developments in the campground industry?

Finn Harbor
Finn Harbor
May 3, 2024 5:35 pm
Reply to  xander_xerox

It’s really inspiring to see fresh leadership stepping up in the campground industry. These new developments are sure to bring a wave of positive changes and innovation to the camping scene. How do you think these changes will impact the overall camping experience for visitors in Illinois?

May 3, 2024 12:44 am

The recent Illinois Campground Association meetings were buzzing with excitement as we shared cool ideas to amp up visitor experiences and business opportunities this camping season. Let’s keep the energy flowing!

May 3, 2024 1:18 pm

I reckon it’s high time the Illinois Campground Association gets on board with sustainable practices to attract nature-loving campers. Let’s spruce up those campgrounds with eco-friendly initiatives and tech upgrades for a top-notch guest experience!

Steven Carter
Steven Carter
May 3, 2024 1:41 pm

Isn’t it awesome how the Illinois Campground Association’s recent meetings, led by Bennett, are big on sustainable practices and eco-friendly moves in the camping scene? They’re all about teamwork too, fostering collaborations with outdoor groups. It’s inspiring to see such a proactive stance in the camping community!

Christopher Green
Christopher Green
May 3, 2024 3:21 pm

Just wanted to share that there seems to be a delay in rolling out those new campground safety rules we talked about at the meetings. Campgrounds are feeling a bit uneasy about how this might affect their season. Plus, the association’s digital marketing campaign plans are facing a hitch due to budget uncertainties.


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Illinois Campground Association Welcomes New Leadership at Statewide Spring Meetings! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/usa/illinois/illinois-campground-association-welcomes-new-leadership-at-statewide-spring-meetings/