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A campground of memories
Wachniak family has owned Parkwood RV Park since 1962
020807 RV PARK web
Harry Wachniak and his wife Lisa came back to Statesboro in 1997 to take over the Parkwood Motel & RV Park after his father passed away. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Harry Wachniak is grateful that he has been able to build upon a legacy left by his parents and turned it into a business that he, his wife, and children have been able to enjoy for the last 10 years. As owners of the Parkwood Motel & RV Park on Highway 301 south in Statesboro, the Wachniaks have been making dramatic renovations to the facilities that his mother and father bought over 40 years ago.
    "My dad found out that the Parkwood Restaurant and Motel was for sale, so he hopped a Greyhound bus from Daytona, Fla., and came up here to look at it," Wachniak said. "He decided to buy it and moved our family to Statesboro."
    Wachniak said his parents, Willam and Sally Wachniak, bought the restaurant and motel in 1961 and then added the recreational vehicle (RV) park in 1971.
    "I think that my dad felt that with the growth of the interstate system there would be more traffic and RV's," Wachniak said. "For him it was just another opportunity to expand his business."
    Wachniak was working as a grant writer and program administrator in Bartow County, Ga., and his wife, Lisa, a buyer for the bookstore at Kennesaw State University, when Wachniak's father died in 1997.
    "When my dad passed away we had to make a decision to either sell the park or run it," he said. "Lisa and I looked at this as an opportunity to return to Statesboro where we felt like there was a better quality of life than in Atlanta. Our son was 1 at the time, and it just seemed like the right move."
    "I am from Statesboro and graduated from Georgia Southern and my wife graduated from Georgia Southern as well," he said. "We knew this is where we wanted to be."
    Many who stay at the RV park and several in the local business community have high praise for what the Wachniaks have been able to do with the park since returning to Statesboro in 1997.
    "They have been very successful with it," said Darren Burnett, senior vice president of the Sea Island Bank in Statesboro. "They have done a great job of preserving a piece of local history by not only sprucing up and updating it, but also renovating the original building that held the restaurant."
    The Wachniaks have spent an estimated $300,000 this past year turning the former Parkwood Restaurant into meeting facility with an industrial kitchen. The 5,000-square-foot building, including an unfinished upstairs, is now available for lease to the public.
    "Statesboro has a great need for more offsite meeting facilities," Burnett said. "What they have done addresses a local need, and again, it is truly a beautiful renovation. The end result is tremendous."
    With improvements in their meeting facilities and a recent expansion in the number of RV sites in the park, the Wachniaks are capitalizing on an industry trend that finds its demographics moving towards a younger, more affluent enthusiast.
    "The RV and RV campground industry is booming because an RV vacation is now seen as an excellent way to spend time with your family," said Karen Redfern, a spokesperson for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, based in Falls Church, Va. "The demographics have changed and there are now two distinct groups - the 35 - 55 age group, and the 55 and above. This boom is happening all over the country."
    Wachniak said his business has increased steadily over the last several years while the age of his average guest has decreased.
    "We see a lot of retired people that are 50 years old and younger," he said. "I am always amazed that these folks are retired and enjoying traveling around the country."
    Even though the demographics of the industry are changing, Wachniak is quick to admit that his older, retired clientele is the bread and butter of his business.
    "Folks like the Taylors are what make this business so much fun," he said. "They are friendly, laid back, and genuinely nice. They make wonderful neighbors in the winter."
    Somerset, Ky., resident, Virthel Taylor, and his wife, Geneva, have been coming to Parkwood for the last six years escaping from the cold Kentucky winters.
    "We have been RV(ing) for the last 30 years," Taylor said. "We just love it here and really like how Harry and Lisa have improved it. It is the best place that we have found."
    Taylor said the location is wonderful and the southern hospitality is unmatched.
    "We head south in the winter because of the temperature, that is the main reason, but everyone is so friendly here, it's scenic, the university has wonderful things to do, and there are many parks and places to visit," he said. "It's just great."
    Taylor and his wife are among a number of regulars who come to Parkwood every year.     With a total of 48 RV sites available to rent each night, Wachniak said he anticipates averaging 1000 "site nights" per month during 2007. That means on average, he will have about 33 of his 48 sites rented each night during any given month.
    In addition, the Wachniaks have remodeled the motel creating 24 cottages with themes such as Elvis, Norman Rockwell, Marilyn Monroe and Coca Cola. Lisa Wachniak also has business that she conducts using the new kitchen facilities - Divine Secrets - a custom, gourmet gift company.
    Gordon Burns has known the Wachniaks for many years, first selling advertising in RV publications and then as a salesperson for Ellis Travel Trailers in Statesboro.
    "Everyone that I have ever talked to that has stayed at their park has such high praise for them" Burns said.  "Every RV'er that would come to Ellis in need of a part or just shopping would say that Parkwood was just a great park, unique, full service, and very nice. They have done a fabulous job with it."
    Wachniak said that he and his family are very blessed and grateful enjoying what many may feel is an unusual occupation. "This park has allowed our family to be together and enjoy one another while we enjoy the new and old friends we see each year," he said. "And, my schedule is such that I can go to Kiwanis every Thursday."