South County Gazette
A Fresh Approach–Resort Set to Begin Second Phases
By Terri Gordon, March 2008
Four and a half years ago, when the old Bob-A-Ron campground in Three Oaks went up for sale, brothers Ted and Tim O’Neil had an idea. They decided to buy the property and build a vacation home campground community. With home prices soaring, they felt they could offer an affordable alternative to both short-term renting and second home owning. The result is Lakeside Cabins Resort.
The O’Neils took the campground, with its two existing manmade lakes, added heated swimming pools, a lodge, and built 260 cabins around the complex.
All cabins are built to national park model standards, and are about twelve feet wide by thirty-six feet long. “You walk in the door and there’s a full family room, an eating area, a bathroom and a bedroom,” says Tim. Sleeping lofts fill the space above the main floor. “People can build whatever [screened-in] porches and decks they want.” The cabins sell for roughly $100,000, and can be rented out when not in use.
One of the lakes is exclusively for fishing, stocked with small mouth bass, blue gill and other “pan fish.” The second lake is multi-recreational, used for swimming, fishing, and small boats, like kayaks and canoes. No motorized water craft is allowed.
The development is still technically a campground, so year-round living is prohibited by the State of Michigan, but property owners, and renters get the benefits of summer activities, a full-time staff, and onsite management. “What I wanted to do was create something that was more of a community,” says O’Neil.
“We run an arts and crafts program, and we have activities on the weekend. We offer the most affordable option in the area, but also the option with the most amenities.”
A community gathering area, game room and media center, with ping-pong, air hockey, foosball and video games, and a community fire pit for evening marshmallow roasts can all be found at the lodge. There is a horseshoe pit, a bocce ball lawn and a shuffleboard court, and there is an outdoor pavilion for picnics and other gatherings, a full basketball court and open playing fields. A playground, with slides, ramps, swings and towers entertains the younger set. And, as if that weren’t enough, there is a hiking trail to the Galien River.
The endeavor has been so successful that Lakeside Cabins Resort is set to begin a second phase of the project, adding 160 cabins for a total of just over 400, on 120 acres. “The second phase will add an additional manmade lake, an additional lodge, an additional heated swimming pool, and then an additional playground,” says O’Neil.
O’Neil is pleased with the result. “What we’ve brought so far is a nice, family-oriented, affordable, both vacation and second-home option, and when we’re all done, one of the larger vacation destinations and second-home options in the area,” he says. “When people come to visit, they say, ‘Wow, this is like a day gone by.’ And that is what we tried to create.”
“If you’re here on a summer night there’ll be families around fires making ‘smores, and during the day, people fishing. It’s very multigenerational. We’ll have grandparents with their grandkids. You’ll see moms and dads making trinkets with their kids. We bring bands out, and we have bingo every Saturday night.”
For renting, Lakeside Cabins Resort is popular for family reunions, or groups of friends. “We do a lot of family reunions where the matriarch and patriarch will say, ‘Okay, we’re going here,’ and then they’ll rent seven cabins, and it’ll be grandma and grandpa and their five kids. Each of the five kids will take a cabin because they’ve got three or four of their own kids. And it works great,” says O’Neil. “We’ve got the pavilion, they can grill and cookout, and go swimming together, and all those things.”
They even have instances where one family member purchased a cabin, had the family out, and they liked it so well, another family member decided to buy a lot. “They didn’t come together to buy, but one bought then the other bought too,” says O’Neil.
All of this is a positive indication, to the O’Neils, that they have built something special–and people are coming.