The Ottumwa Courier

November 16, 2012

Ottumwa sees best camping season yet

Campground managers not returning next year, position open for 2013

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — This year was the best camping season ever at Ottumwa Park, said Parks Director Gene Rathje.

Campers brought in $96,000 in revenue, doubling the total three years ago, he said. Revenue is generated from the $15 it costs per night for an RV, $9 per night for a tent and sales of firewood and refreshments.

“I think a lot of it had to do with the positive attitude and personalities of the campground hosts this year,” Rathje said. “They’re very friendly. We had no complaints at all about the campground.”

Rich and Mary Runnion, of Cheyenne, Wyo., hosted the campground for the first time this year, though they don’t plan on returning next year.

“They decided not to come back, mostly because they’re around their 70s, they’re retired and they want to spend more time enjoying retirement and visiting their grandchildren in Georgia,” Rathje said.

In a recent letter to the editor, the Runnions thanked this year’s campers for a great summer.

“We hope our services will be carried on in a manner of respect and understanding that we exemplified during the seven months we were there,” the Runnions wrote.

The Runnions could not be reached as of press time Thursday.

In 2009, Ottumwa’s campground managers were fired after serving in the position for 11 years due to a “personnel matter.” At a 2010 city council meeting, then-Mayor Dale Uehling said he had received three complaints about the managers, which led to their termination, though he did not elaborate on the complaints.

The firings outraged those in the community and those who have since moved away who camped in the park every summer through letters to the editor, radio interviews and appearances at city council meetings.

The camping season ended on Oct. 31 and will start up again on April 1.

Rathje said they will start advertising for the position in December.

“We’re looking for people that have a trailer, who will live on site and are willing to work for seven months straight,” Rathje said. “They need to have a friendly personality, be good with customer service and have some mowing and cleaning skills.”

Rathje also said weather and improvements to the campground likely helped the season.

“We numbered some of the sites and are stocking trout in the pond,” he said. “If we get through a whole summer with very few or no complaints, it’s win-win for us.”