A rendering shows a lodge proposed as part of Kampgrounds of America and Terramor Outdoor Resort’s Adirondacks proposal in Wilmington. Rendering by The LA Group, courtesy of an Adirondack Park Agency application

Kampgrounds of America subsidiary looks to upgrade existing site near Whiteface Mountain

By Gwendolyn Craig

Terramor Outdoor Resort, a glamping operation owned by Kampgrounds of America (KOA), is looking to open a location in the Adirondacks in Essex County. The proposed $28.5 million project includes an 80-tent campground with a lodge, swimming pool, event pavilion and employee housing at the old Kampgrounds of America site on Fox Farm Road in Wilmington.

The approximately 65-acre site is less than two miles from Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort, and near the West Branch of the Ausable River. It also adjoins state trailheads to the Wilmington Wild Forest. 

The project is currently out for public comment with the Adirondack Park Agency, charged with overseeing public and private development, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC is evaluating it for a wastewater discharge permit. The APA’s jurisdiction involves the 25% expansion of an existing tourist accommodation on private lands in moderate intensity use, a land classification used to describe more residentially zoned areas of the park.

KOA attempted a similar project in the Catskills and received pushback from residents, who did not want to see more development in the area. The company ultimately withdrew the application there. 

Jenny McCullough, director of brand and operations for Terramor, declined to comment on the project except to say that KAO is “proud to continue our legacy of more than 30 years of business ownership in Wilmington NY/Lake Placid region. KOA will carry on its mission of connecting people to the outdoors and each other for all visitors to the community.”

Doug Nemec, code enforcement officer for the town of Wilmington, said KOA already demolished the old campground buildings last year. The town planning board is waiting for DEC, APA and state Department of Health approvals before it signs off on the development. 

Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer said he believed the campground stopped accepting visitors last fall, and the site is now a “blank canvas.” KOA operates two other campgrounds in Wilmington, Holzer said, on Route 86.

Holzer said he was surprised that KOA representatives declined the Explorer’s request for comments. They should be keeping the public informed and building excitement for their project, he said.

The campground KOA plans to renovate began operating in the 1970s, according to KOA’s APA application. It had space for tents and RVs, and also rented out cabins. The site was once owned by the Nagamine Family Trust but operated by KOA. Property records show KOA purchased the property in 2013. 

“It definitely brought a lot of people to the area,” Holzer said. “We’re in the middle of the Adirondacks, and camping and hiking and things of that nature are major to the community and our economy.”

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KOA proposes to operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, all year round. KOA expects more than 5,000 visitors in the summer months, and just under 2,000 visitors in the winter. Nemec did not think many locals would be glamping there, a term to describe camping with more amenities. Some of the tents will be hard-sided, allowing them to be occupied even in cold weather. All units will have a bathroom.  KOA also plans to build a wellness tent, pool and cabana. Nemec thought it could be a good project for the area. 

According to the application, engineers found multiple septic systems of various sizes spread about the campground, some overfull and causing issues downstream. KOA will remove those wastewater systems and install four new ones, according to the plans.

Terramor is the latest proposal in a number of glamping sites popping up around the Adirondacks. Huttopia in Lake Luzerne and Glampful in Broadalbin are just two recent additions.

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published 2023-04-20 23:27:44