Pine Acres RV Resort up for auction
RAYMOND - For 36 years, Stanley Shea and John Tracy nurtured and grew the Pine Acres RV Resort, making it one of the largest and most popular campgrounds in New England.
But three years ago, getting older and with a good offer on the table, they decided to sell the business.
It is a decision they have both lived to regret.
"We made a mistake. We sold to corporate America," Tracy said.
Since Morgan RV Management took over, Tracy and Shea regularly receive calls from angry, frustrated and saddened campers urging them to come back.
Among the complaints campers have are a lack of security, lack of activities, increased rates and unclean facilities.
Their most recent concerns are about money.
Earlier this month, an auction listing for Pine Acres showed up in print and online leaving campers wondering what will happen to their deposits if the campground does not open as expected on April 15.
Mike Shea of Temple, Stan's son, grew up at the campground and remained a seasonal camper after his father sold the business.
He said as recently as March 22 he had received calls from Morgan Management offering a discount if he paid the remaining $2,100 for his seasonal site early. Shea told them he would not be paying it as a result of the auction. He has already paid them $1,500. He was told by a representative of Morgan that the mortgage was up for auction, but they expect the campground to open as anticipated.
Not going back
That is small consolation to some campers who say as long as Morgan RV is in charge, they will not return to Pine Acres.
Bernice Dodge of Manchester is not a seasonal camper, but has been going to Pine Acres for about a month each summer for more than 30 years.
In the "good old days" dances were offered weekly for adults and children, along with a whole slate of regular activities, multiple riverfront beaches, clean facilities and a stocked camp store.
Last year, bathrooms were dirty and in disrepair, the trash overflowed the dumpsters regularly, and the camp store, with broken air-conditioning, had hardly any food, never mind supplies, she said.
"It's so different now, and until it goes back to private ownership or until someone better buys it, I won't go back," Dodge said. "They are sending me emails with all these specials, and I'm not answering any of their emails because I don't want to go there."
These stories keep Stanley Shea up at night, he said.
"I am sick over that. My partner and I, we spent our whole life building that campground and then for the last two or three years you have a lot of the seasonal campers come up and say 'Stan, I wish you would buy the campground back again,'" he said.
At the time, snow filled the parking lots of the campground where the Laundromat used to be open year-round. Two young men in a car with New York plates, the home state of Morgan RV, were seen taking boxes from the main office to the car.
Calls made to Morgan RV and the Nashua attorney handling the sale were not returned.
The auction is being held today at the campground at 11 a.m. Shea and Tracy said they will both be there, but they do not want campers to read too much into that.
Shea, Tracy and two partners purchased the Pine Acres Farm in 1967 to start a day camp. Soon, overflow campers from nearby Pawtuckaway State Park started turning up asking if campsites were available.
Shea said they weren't really a campground, but would let people set up their tents.
"We made more money that weekend than we did on the day camp, so that's how the campground started," Shea said. "It was a lot of fun."
For 15 years both Tracy and Shea worked day jobs while getting the campground up and running.
By 1994 the campground had more than 700 sites when Walmart came along looking to build a distribution center. Shea and Tracy sold half the campground and moved buildings and campsites to accommodate their regular visitors. Tracy said the only difference is that the 421 remaining campsites were usually full.
"We used to have activities all the time," Shea said - arts and crafts for kids, dances, fireworks, and hayrides, movies in the rec hall, and Shea driving around an old firetruck.
The campground was open from April 1 through the first weekend in November.
But Shea said after they sold, Morgan RV shortened the season and increased the rates. At the same time, some activities were eliminated.
"It has gone downhill definitely. It is not as clean as it used to be, the activities have been cut down some. There have been quite a few changes. My father ran a pretty tight ship," Mike Shea said.
Morgan RV owns campgrounds around the country but appears to be in financial trouble. Pine Acres is one of 11 Morgan properties that were listed together for auction last summer, and one of at least two that have been auctioned in New England in the last two weeks.
Morgan RV-owned Flagg's RV Resort in York, Maine was scheduled for foreclosure auction on March 22.
Taxes on the Pine Acres property for 2012 totaling $80,475.44, including interest, were paid late on Jan. 31, according to the town clerk.
A water bill totaling about $2,555 for the fourth quarter of 2012 due on Feb. 11 had not been paid as of March 28.
The 95-acre property is valued at about $3.3 million, according to town records.
According to the auction listing, the auction winner must make a $200,000 deposit.