Leadership Profile: Laura Saxe
Co-owner, Eagle’s Rest RV Park & Cabins, Valdez, Alaska
Chairman of the Board, Alaska Campground Owners Association (ACOA)
How did you become involved in the campground industry?
It was my husband Jeff’s brainstorm. He was a heavy equipment operator and while plowing snow at night he got to do a lot of thinking. He would drive by this big piece of property and think “we could put an RV park right there” and that’s what we did. It took us a while to convince the people to sell us the property, but they finally said yes. We built our campground in 1991 and then we just kept buying more land from them and expanding.
What’s your favorite thing about camping?
I love meeting different people from all over the world. But I think my favorite part is seeing all the happy campers and familiar faces returning each year.
How did you become involved in ACOA?
When we built our campground, my husband and I attended one of the meetings with some other campground owners from around the state of Alaska, so we were involved right from the get-go. I wasn’t on the board that first year, but I think I’ve pretty much played a role since ACOA started. We have a very diverse membership, from campgrounds that are very treed to RV parks located in open gravel areas and we have parks in wilderness areas and others located right in the downtown of a city.
Tell us a little about the leadership of ACOA.
We couldn’t do what we do without our very solid board. And some of the new professionals, the younger people that have just bought parks and are getting into the campground industry, have jumped in with both feet and they’re great. We have such a great board of directors. My husband and I love to go moose hunting for a few weeks in the fall and they’ll even schedule our annual convention at the end of the year based on when I’m getting back from hunting!
What are your goals for ACOA this year?
I’d like to see us boost our membership back up. It’s been a challenging year for us being shut off from the lower 48. Our parks are struggling, and I can see why they’ve been penny pinching, so we’ve lost a few members. Another goal I’d like to see our association reach is to get back into our associate memberships that have kind of dropped off. Those are the businesses that support the RV parks in each little community.
How does being part of national ARVC benefit your members?
I love the resources ARVC offers so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. That’s been instrumental. If anybody calls me and is planning on building a park, I send them to the ARVC website or tell them to register for ARVC’s Prospective Owners Workshop. There’s so much information there. The national codes (NFPA 1194) are so helpful. I tell people, if you’re going to build a park, do it right. And then there are all the legislative efforts. I can’t say enough about Jeff Sims (ARVC’s senior director of state relations and program advocacy). We’ve been trying to pass an inherent risk bill in Alaska to prevent frivolous lawsuits and he’s been our rock.
How do you spend your off season?
We spend the winters in Arizona and also attend RV shows to promote our park. We have to promote driving to Alaska first because that’s a big step for people, and then we promote Valdez, our little community. We’re 300 miles from Anchorage and 360 miles from Fairbanks.
What advice would you give to someone who has never visited Alaska?
Spend the whole summer if you can. It’s really hard to drive to Alaska and back to wherever you live in the lower 48 in a month because it takes a month to see everything there is to see if you really want to see Alaska. If you’re still working, fly into one of the bigger cities, rent a motorhome and travel around for two weeks. That will give you a taste of what we have to offer.