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One Deer Stand and a Dream: Meet Broad River Campground’s Tyler Watts

#WeAreOHI

Not long ago, Tyler Watts was a project engineer overseeing the efforts of dozens of workers on a daily basis. After several years of operating in that field, he decided it was time to switch things up.

Tyler Watts and his oldest son Jaxon aka Jax
Tyler Watts and his oldest son Jaxon aka Jax

“I was tired of working for the man. I wanted to be the man.” 

So Watts ventured into the world of real estate investment, starting off with a few single-family homes as a side hustle. Eventually, he had an opportunity to quit his job as an engineer to become a full-time real estate developer with Student Rental Investments.

“It’s been a whirlwind ever since.”

Watts & his group started out purchasing and renovating apartment complexes. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the market began to shift.

“We have a general contractor’s license, so we can obviously build and pull permits. I don’t sleep a lot. My brain’s always racing. I’m always thinking of the next best thing, or at least trying to, and RV parks just came to my radar.”

He began to research RV parks, convincing his partners to do the same. After about a year of researching the market, talking to other owners, and attending conferences, they decided to purchase a piece of land. On July 1, 2022, Broad River Campground opened to the public in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.


“The more we dug into it, the more we fell in love with it. I’m not one to say no to an adventure or a challenge. I said, ‘I don’t really want to buy one. How about we build one?’ I’ve got a great group, and they stand behind me and they believe in me. And that’s what we did; we built one.”

Their timing was perfect. The park was debuting at a time when the RV park industry was exploding.

“When we first opened, we were fully booked, which was a phenomenal achievement in my eyes for us as a development group that took a raw piece of land, built something and, on opening weekend, we had people showing up from across the state and across the southeast that somehow figured out we were there, which is still amazing to me.”

It may not seem like project management, real estate development and the outdoor hospitality industry would have overlapping skillsets, but Watts has been able to use his knowledge gained from other fields to make for a better customer experience.

Whether you are a couple wanting to go glamping, a solo camper trying to get back to the basics in a tent, or a family pulling up in your RV for a vacation, Broad River Campground offers a variety of site options and amenities. You can even get married on-site.


“We decided we want to be an upscale resort, but we also noticed that there weren’t too many parks out there that offered everything from a tent site for the everyday common man to luxurious cabins. We want to cater to all walks of life.”

The diverse array of options has led to a successful first few years for the park. In its first year being open, Broad River Campground was named the Small Park of the Year during OHI’s 2023 Awards of Excellence at the Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE).

“I’m still on cloud nine,” Watts said.

He remembers attending OHCE the year prior, seeing the red carpet rolled out with that year’s winners seated up front, and thinking “that’s going to be us.”

 

“When it came down to it, we have a good story. We’re just some country boys from a one stoplight town that had a dream. And we were able to take that dream and execute on it. We used that as our platform to tell our story, not only just about being successful in the campground industry, but it’s also about growing the industry as a whole. I felt that our story helped promote that this is achievable. Is it easy? No, of course it’s not easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But with the right group, you can take a 90-acre track of raw land, no water, no sewer, no power, just one deer stand, and you can turn it into a resort destination that people from all over the nation will travel to.”

With early success already in hand and a critical endorsement from an infamous local secured (“We discovered that Bigfoot lived on our property, and we were able to sit down with him and have a reasonable conversation, and he is now our full-time mascot representative.”), what’s next for Broad River Campground?

“I just want to keep growing,” Watts said “We just opened up phase two, and that’s 40 more RV sites, so we almost tripled the size of the park.


“I’ve got the best staff in the nation. You have to present a very good product to people. When you’re in the hospitality business, it’s no different. We want people to show up with a smile on their face, and more importantly, we want them to leave with a smile on their face.”

 

From Left: Tyler Watts (Student Rental Investments), Jake Whistant (Manager, Broad River Campground), George Selembo (Student Rental Investments)