Updated: Aug 26, 2018
I started Brighton Shores Summer Estates with my first wife, my mom and my dad. Looking back, while the cast of characters has changed beyond imagining, all of a sudden I've been building the Timber House Resort for the last 30 years.
Initially it was a side-gig to a Toronto day job. But steadily, campgrounds, trailer parks, the people in them, the places they are and what they can be has become the focus of my work. For the longest time I was building and scrambling, I was slave labour for lots of work I couldn't afford to hire out. Then I was building and fixing, mainly, as our outstanding team and business grew.
We knew a bit about the campground business. With mom and dad, we had literally lived in the corner of the one we'd owned since the early 70's. I was also an engineer. My day job was in technology, lots of different things. I loved it but gravitated to business/product/sales roles. I loved technology and building stuff with it, especially on a big-picture scale with the human dimension of explaining, selling and exciting customers. That's how we approached Brighton Shores. We wanted a better product that'd be great for the kind of campers we wanted as customers.
Recreational trailer parks serve tourists and vacationers. This generally means recreational trailer parks can only offer weak tenure (the right to continue occupying the trailer site) to people renting a site for the trailer they own. Resorts with relatively short occupancy periods up to about 160 days offer rental agreements or contracts. These agreements generally have very limited rights and terms granted in the agreement. The tenure on the land is typically only year-to-year. Resorts offering longer occupancy seasons each year are vulnerable to being viewed as mobile home land-lease parks and then would have to change their business models after providing suitable notice to the trailer owners. In either case, tenure on the land is weak.
Uncertain tenure of trailers on sites in trailer parks is a case of form following function. Trailers must be built to meet a low price point that can be justified given the implications of the weak tenure of the structure on the land. When I started Brighton Shores these concerns were top of mind and we set out to do something better.
I had run into some people who told me about a place they were building called Sherkston Shores on Lake Erie. These folks were from Britain and they were part of a firm that built a different kind of recreational trailer park in the UK. Sherkston was their first in North America. The trailers were more like cabins and they tended to operate on a much longer season.
We copied much of what Sherkston Shores was, but on a smaller scale, and Brighton Shores Summer Estates was born as a seasonal-only, park model-only (look like 'cabins, but are RV's) trailer park. Our operating license already allowed a near-to-year round season that we slowly increased as we improved the infrastructure. People could stay for long periods, and look forward to enjoying their trailer on the site over a period of years, not days or nights. Both Sherkston Shores and Brighton Shores have flourished to this day.
Our trailer park customers love the ability to stay longer each year. Out of this love for the overall experience, our trailer owners over the years have accepted the weaker tenure of a trailer on the recreational site and the limitations of the trailers. This has been the story at Timber House Resort for almost 30 years. This spirit of love and attachment in the face of these limits is what all trailer parks have run on for decades, but we believe improvement is long overdue and urgently needed to keep pace with modern times.
Three wives later (third time is a charm!), Michele and I have a house in Brighton where the kids (from my second marriage) have mainly come and gone. Michele still works in Toronto. We commute back and forth for a few days a week in each place. In the Park now I'm doing some 'fixing' and definitely not 'building' as much because everything runs pretty well and we're more than compliant with every regulation we know of. I'm hosting our overnight guests a bit more, but I mainly spend most of my time working on developing the Timber House Resort business to address the incredible opportunities that arise with these improvements.
My focus has only intensified as our family life has encountered the realities of aging parents and growing children. Michele lost her 52 year old brother to a heart attack a few months back and we're more mindful than ever of time passing. Michele and I try to spend as much time as we can with our aging family members and other loved ones in Brighton and beyond. We try to see the kids when we can. As loss and change comes faster we try to keep loved ones closer and reflect more on the purpose of love, life and work.
One of my reflections, through my trailer park 'lens', is that trailer park people and trailer parks are a macrocosm of people in general. They're long on love and short on time, as the song says. The love there is powerful and if it can be given new means of expression, its a considerable force.
This is the inspiration behind Net Zero Resorts, the creative product of a life journey through personal growth; love and relationships; business and technology; all through the lens of the trailer park and trailer owners. In a next post called 'Trust' I will explain further.
We hope you will enjoy your stay at Timber House Resort, the first Net Zero Resort as much as Michele and I are enjoying creating it.