By Brandon Martin
Outdoor enthusiasts near and far have a hopping new spot to enjoy the wilderness of Henry County this spring.
Cahill’s Lily Pad Campground, located along the Smith River in Bassett, officially opened its gates last year and visitors have come to find that the spot is good for more than just roughin’ it, according to owner Jesse Cahill.
“We have water, sewer, and electricity with a 50-amp service and electrical hookups,” he said. “We have a bathhouse with showers, washers and dryers. We even have a playground for the kids.”
In addition, the campground even comes with its own general store that provides camping supplies and made-to-order meals.
Those who would rather live off of the land can “walk along the river and fish in the trout stream,” Cahill said. “They stock the stream regularly. We have a picnic shelter to eat in groups too.”
Cahill said he originally purchased the land to add to his real estate portfolio but didn’t specifically envision an RV park until later in the development.
“My wife was still living at the time and we bought this land. I’ve been in real estate for 60 years and I buy, sell and trade. I bought the land because it was available. I didn’t buy it specifically for the RV park,” Cahill said. “After we got it, we decided it was a good use for it. Times were good and there was nothing wrong with the health situation.”
Cahill said the project originally began on Oct. 10, 2019 but the process was anything but simple.
“It took a little over a year for us to get all of the approvals, including the zoning,” he added. “We had three surveys made on it. It took us 13-months to get it all approved. It messed up my management and killed what I had planned, so it’s been kind of rough, but we are looking forward to seeing what it becomes.”
While it may have taken a while to get the proper authority to start building the park, Cahill said contractors finished development in half the time.
“I’m very pleased that we did as well as we did. I’ve been a Class A contractor since 1958 and it was the first one that I’ve ever built,” he said. “Considering the icing and everything, I thought we did pretty well. We finished it all in six months, which was half the time it took to just get permission to do it. That’s just unheard of.”
Cahill said the process involved a lot of manual labor, but nothing that a true outdoorsman wouldn’t enjoy.
“I had to hire an engineer to come in and then people to come in to bid on the water, sewer, electricity, parking spaces and grading. It was quite a job.,” he said. “We started in the rain and had to grade all of the ground. That included digging ditches for the water and sewer. We had a heck of a time doing all that in the mud.”
Cahill said the park was officially given the go-ahead to open on March 10, 2020 but mother nature again threw a curveball with the pandemic.
“We opened the park at that time, but it still wasn’t quite ready,” he said. “We had several people make reservations and then the governor closed us down March 20 of last year. So, we had to give back all the reservations and we didn’t put anybody in it.”
After precautions about the virus had been settled, Cahill said the park was reopened in June.
“That didn’t give us any time for advertising or anything of that nature, so we started out pretty slow,” Cahill said. “We had as many as 30-35 (people) at the time but because of advertising, I couldn’t complain a whole lot.”
Cahill said the on-site store helped a lot with revenue during the difficult early days of the campground’s operations.
“We kept the store open and had about 20 people staying by the month who were working on different jobs here, up until about three weeks ago,” Cahill said. “The pipeline that some were working on was closed down. The solar system that some were working on closed down. We are down to the point where we have people waiting, as the jobs are ready, to come back in. At present, we only have about four people here. Most of which are traveling nurses with the hospital.”
Cahill said some guests have even used the campground instead of an extended hotel stay.
“We have people that have visited from a half dozen or more states. We had a couple people just live down here for six months while they were doing their house,” he said. “You just never know. There’s vacationing people, working people, and a lot of other reasons for staying.”
With March around the corner, Cahill is hoping people will add recreational camping to that list of reasons.
“I have high hopes that it’ll be very successful,” he said. “I’m familiar with the fact that buying campers, at the present time, is hard. The manufacturers are way behind, but people are buying campers. Apparently, they are going to be camping. I’m anticipating that 30 days from now, people are going to start camping. If so, we are hoping it’ll all come together for us.”
In total, the campground has 122 spots for RV camping with all the necessary amenities. The rates are $50 per night, $250 per week, and $600 for the month. There are 10 campsites available for tent camping at $30 per night.
“When permitted, we will have events that’ll be in any park, like hayrides and music,” Cahill said. “Once we get the approvals to go back to normal, we will have a better idea of what all we can offer here.”
For more information on Cahill’s Lily Pad Campground, visit: https://cahilllilypad.com/.