Zoning board approves new campground

GNAW BONE — Another spot to put up a tent or park a camper will soon be coming to the Gnaw Bone area.

Tim and Karen Stephens went before the Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals on April 28 to ask for a special exception for a travel trailer park on the land where the Olde Time Flea Market is now on State Road 46 East. The couple wants to open the AwayADay Travel Trailer Park. The property is still owned by Charles and Marsha Placke.

In 2018, a special exception was granted to allow a private recreational development on that land, but that development — proposed by a different couple — was not completed before that special exception expired, according to the BZA staff report.

A portion of the 58-acre property is in the floodway, but the plan is to not have trailers or camping in those areas.

Tim Stephens said that opening this campground has been a lifelong dream for him and Karen. The couple has camped in Brown County State Park over the past 30 years.

“It’s giving us both the opportunity to get back to the area we have enjoyed throughout our lives. We plan to be on the property 24/7 to be able to help anybody that needs help, whether a camper or facility issue,” Tim said.

The couple also visits a private campground on Patoka Lake often, and Tim said they have been able to ask the couple who owns that campground lots of questions.

Karen works in home health care. Tim managed a 410,000-square-foot distribution center for a national company, but he told the board he had lost his job unexpectedly after working there for 34 years. That’s when the couple started looking into opening a travel trailer park.

The plan is to have 107 campsites on the property with electric hookups from Duke Energy and water available. The existing bathrooms will be renovated to include showers. The current building on the property will be converted to the manager quarters, the campground office and equipment storage space, according to the staff report.

The existing flea market structures will be rearranged in the future and may provide boat storage or be used as shelterhouses, the staff report states.

Around half of the trailer spaces will be leased to campers who want a guaranteed spot each time they visit and the remaining will be available for nightly or weekly rentals.

Each site will have its own sewer hookup. Gnaw Bone Regional Sewer District reported that its plant had capability to handle multiple campsites there as long as the park does not exceed 5,400 gallons a day. The park will be directly connected to the Gnaw Bone sewer line, Tim said.

A dump station for trash will also be available, with the Stephenses hiring a company to come remove it.

Campers who decide to lease a spot there will sign an annual lease. “If they want to use it for storage or leave it during the winter months, they can,” Tim said.

The hope is the travel trailer park will also serve guests visiting the Brown County Music Center when shows return there this fall, “support them and anybody coming into the area,” Tim said.

Marcus Dunn, a next-door neighbor to the property for 27 years, attended to express his support for the Stephenses.

“I want to be a good neighbor to these folks and they will be to me. I would ask you tonight to lean towards a yes for them to go ahead,” Dunn said.

BZA board member Buzz King said he knew the couple from when he worked the state park’s west gate for 13 years. “Occasionally, they would arrive late and come into the state park. I recognize the faces. They are good campers. I personally think it’s a great service to the community,” King said. “I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. I am all in favor of it. The sooner, the better.”

Dunn said he had received a call from someone who lived out of town asking if he knew any place to put a camper for the weekend because every campground in the county was full. “I think the need is out there,” he said.

Karen said that the couple plans to add more trees to make it more visually appealing. Privacy fencing will also be put up along the north and west sides of the property. “We will make it as nice as we can,” she said.

BZA board member Randy Jones said he had visited the site earlier that day and said he thought this would be a good use.

BZA President John Dillberger agreed. “I think this is a perfectly appropriate use for this property and this property is in desperate need of a use. There’s a need for more campsites in this county.”

The BZA unanimously approved the special exception. In the motion it was suggested the Stephenses get an alarm system to let campers closer to the creek know of rising water.