By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Visitors to the mountain who enjoy camping will have a new option to call home come July.
The campground at SkyPark at Santa’s Village – which has been planned from the very beginning – is in the final staging of preparation for its guests.
The park, said Bill Johnson, will have 53 sites for RVs, although it is permitted for 70. The sites range in size from 10×20, suitable for vans, to 10×65, which will accommodate buses. In addition, there are 35 tent sites.
Each RV site has a sewer hookup, water and electrical power. “It all comes with the cost of reserving the site,” Johnson said.
Those wishing to tent will park their cars in the new parking lot at the base of the campground. There will be carts available for them to wheel their gear to the sites. “We don’t want a campground full of vehicles,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to get more back to nature.”
To that end, crews had already planted 1,000 trees as of last week. Johnson had just ordered another 1,000 and had plans to order yet another 1,000.
The campground will have a seven-unit bathhouse; each unit will have a shower, sink, toilet and changing area with a bench. Johnson will be curious to see if the RV campers use their own restrooms or make use of the bathhouse.
To prepare for his campground, Johnson recently went on a 12-day RV trip to Colorado with his wife, Michelle, and daughter Kacy. It was exhausting, he said, because they moved to a different park every night to get the most complete research on what a park should be and how it should be run.
At one campground in Utah, they noticed a sign saying the ice cream parlor would be open that night. “They gave the campers free ice cream that night. I thought it was a great idea. We could do s’mores nights and give out kits the campers can prepare at the fire pits.”
There will be three fire pit areas, one of which will be ADA compatible. “There will be no combustible fuel,” Johnson said. “They will be gas like the ones at Santa’s Village.”
The bathhouse roof has been designed with a 22-degree pitch – the maximum angle for solar energy. “This will be an eco building, with power and hot water off the grid,” he said.
In another sustainable move, Johnson has had eight-foot-tall chambers installed underground to collect rainwater and recharge the water table.
They are using the water system designed by Putty Henck – the original developer of Santa’s Village – to sell water. There is a 20,000-gallon tank located at the campground.
Guests will make their reservations through the SkyPark at Santa’s Village website. When they arrive, they will turn onto the newly named SkyPark Way and follow signs to go directly to the site they have reserved.
Johnson will be taking drone photos of each site, which campers will be able to see on the website. They will choose their site by size and location.
Each site is unique, offering differing views and having areas where campers can sit under the stars.
Johnson expects the required traffic signal – which will allow pedestrians to cross Highway 18 – to be installed next week. It will be operated with the press of a button by the person wishing to cross, the only time traffic will be stopped. There will be flashing warning lights on either side of the signal on Highway 18 to alert drivers to the signal’s presence.
As for who is most excited about the opening of the campground, Johnson said there’s no question. “The mountain bikers have been blowing up my email asking when it will open,” he said. “I’ve been focused on getting this done for them.”
Because he wanted to put in as little concrete as possible, Johnson has aprons with a gravel base topped with sand to the sides of each site. “If a driver rolls off the concrete, they won’t even notice,” he said.
And to protect the electrical pedestal, he has had large boulders placed in front of each one so an errant driver will nudge the rock rather than the utility post.
Inside the pedestal are three electrical connections – 30 amp, 50 amp for buses and a regular outlet for 110 power. A heating cord will be hard wired into the electrical panel so the water does not freeze in the winter. The campground will be open year-round.
Wildflower seeds have been planted around the sites. Between them and the trees, Johnson is reviving the natural landscape.
When reservations open, the first week will be exclusively for season pass holders. “We are only releasing 2020 dates initially,” Johnson said. “Season pass holders will get a 10-percent discount. After that first week, we will open it up to the general public.”
As for the rates, tent sites will rent for $35 a night and RV sites will be approximately $100 a night. Approximately because the rates are on a sliding scale. Johnson explained that, as the campground fills up, the rates will go up. “The first in get a lower price. It pays to be early.”
Campers will be able to order food from all of the restaurants at SkyPark and have it delivered to their sites. Imagine, Johnson said, waking up to cinnamon buns and lattes.
And when the campers leave, the sites will be thoroughly cleaned. “We’ll replant if bushes got trampled, we’ll rake and fill in the sand and we’ll hose down the site,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he always knew that SkyPark at Santa’s Village wouldn’t be sustainable on its own. He thinks the campground will fuel the park, keeping it busy. In addition, he noted, “it will be fantastic for Lake Arrowhead Village and the mountain’s restaurants.”
He envisions campers gathering around the fire pits at night, sharing stories about what they had done that day at SkyPark – from ziplining to roller skating, rock climbing to driving the pedal cars. “All the amenities they want are right across the street,” Johnson said.
For more information on SkyPark at Santa’s Village and the campground, visit https://skyparksantasvillage.com/.