Transforming Unused Land into a Campground

Katie Thompson
Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Are you considering additional sources of income for your property? Perhaps you have inherited a piece of vacant land?  At Bolson Engineering and Environmental Services, we often receive inquiries from individuals contemplating a campground development on vacant land. A campground development is a terrific way to foster community engagement, promote eco-tourism, and contribute to the local economy. Campgrounds can serve as an excellent opportunity to launch a new business venture (i.e. Glamping resort). Here you will also discover how to convert underutilized land into a campground and gain valuable insight on the benefits of a new campground business.

Key Considerations of a Campground Business

Before starting a campground business in Alberta, there are several factors to consider. These include creating a business plan, selecting a business structure, registering your business name, understanding employment regulations, obtaining insurance, and learning about safety and security measures. While many resources cover these topics extensively (such as guides on running a campsite in Canada or comprehensive articles on buying and operating a campsite), it is important to also address the zoning requirements to open your campground to the public.

Land Use Regulations

Zoning refers to the method employed by local governments to divide a land area into various zones, with the aim of regulating and defining its uses. These zones can be specific to agricultural, parks, commercial, industrial, residential, and institutional purposes. The zoning bylaw is responsible for dividing the municipality into different land use zones and outlining the permissible uses for your property.

Each municipality and region has its own jurisdiction over land use regulations. Consequently, zoning and development regulations can vary from one municipality to another.

Therefore, it is necessary to conduct research on your specific property or reach out to your local government to obtain information about the specific regulations that apply to your land. This will help you confirm whether your project complies with the local zoning bylaws for your property. It is essential that the land you intend to develop is zoned for activities that include a campground. Some municipalities may offer a preliminary zoning review to assist you before you proceed with applying for a development permit.

If your project does not meet the zoning requirements, there may be options to make adjustments to your plan or apply to the municipality for a change in land use.

Hubbles Lake RV Resort on Hubbles Lake, Alberta

Land Assessment

Conducting thorough environmental and geotechnical assessments will ensure the land is suitable for campground development. Identifying potential challenges and opportunities with a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (Phase 1 ESA) and a geotechnical assessment will provide information to make strategic decisions on your campground development. A Phase 1 ESA is a risk management tool that protects you from buying a property that may be contaminated. A Geotechnical assessment tells you want kind of soil surfaces are on the property. An environmental assessment will confirm if there are wetlands on the property that are undevelopable.

Development Plans and Permits

If your land is able to be zoned for use as a campground, you will need to determine what type of campground you want to operate (fully serviced, potable water hook-up and sewage disposal hook-up; partially serviced with some but not all of the services above; or unserviced).

It is worth noting that campgrounds that have more amenities such as showers, toilets, and laundry services and offer various activities tend to attract more visitors. If you intend to welcome recreational vehicles, you might need to offer dump stations, water hookups and power outlets. Can your site be hooked up to the municipal sewage disposal system, for example?

Your proposed campground design will show where and how the project will be built. The purpose of this is to review the design of the proposed development, its impact on surrounding lands, the placement of the proposed buildings and the management of wastewater and drainage, and to check whether you satisfy pre-building permit conditions.

Our civil engineering team will partner with you to develop your vision and advise you on the design of your project, such as minimum campground space, minimum site space size, utility requirements, etc. Your campground plan will show the boundaries and location of your land along with its buildings, roadways, wells, recreational spaces and sewage systems.  

Benefits of Developing a Campground as a Business

Developing a campground as a business in Alberta has numerous benefits that contribute to its attractiveness and profitability. Firstly, Alberta offers breathtaking natural landscapes, including majestic mountains, stunning lakes, and vast forests, which make it an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and immerse themselves in nature. These stunning natural features provide a captivating backdrop for a campground, enhancing the overall experience for campers and attracting a larger customer base.

Moreover, Alberta's diverse climate presents opportunities for year-round camping activities. Campers can enjoy a range of outdoor recreational activities regardless of the season. This not only ensures a steady stream of customers throughout the year but also allows for the establishment of various amenities and services tailored to different activities, thereby increasing the revenue potential of the campground.

Hubbles Lake, Alberta

Community Engagement

Developing a campground can provide an exceptional environment that fosters a harmonious connection between families, individuals, and nature. By curating a space that not only serves as a place for relaxation but also encourages meaningful interactions, such as organizing community events, hosting educational programs, and offering various outdoor activities, the campground can become a haven where people can forge lasting memories with their families and friends. To understand the positive impact such campsites can have on community well-being, let us explore an example that vividly illustrates the inherent benefits.


Highlighting your campground's local natural resources and biodiversity is an integral part of establishing a thriving and prosperous campground. Do not underestimate a campground design that incorporates a carefully planned greenspace will continue to attract visitors and promote sustainable camping principles. Greenspaces offer a myriad of benefits such as providing a recreational space for campers to connect. 

Economic Growth

A new campground development will have many opportunities to generate revenue through camping fees, rentals, and local partnerships. Generating creative campground business revenue strategies will keep your campground level with your competition. Your campground business will also stimulate local businesses by attracting tourists. Opportunities to get creative with your services will give your campground business a competitive edge that your target audience seeks.

Control in Design and Layout

Planning the layout for campsites, amenities, and recreational areas with an experienced civil engineer will maximize your campground layout. Your ideal campground layout will be a balance of your vision, the land, regulations, and of course your budget. Scaling your campground development can also be done in stages to manage costs. Many campground owners will expand their footprint only after operating for years and establishing a solid clientele base.

Bow Rivers Edge Campground near Cochrane, Alberta

Final Thoughts

Transforming unused land into a vibrant campground has many benefits and challenges. Partnering with an experienced civil engineering team will maximize your campground development project. Ready to breathe new life into unused land? Contact Bolson Engineering and Environmental Services to explore your community's endless possibilities.

About the author

With more than 12 years in human resources, Katie brings important process management skills to the table. Her direct experience with senior management in the construction industry helps her understand your engineering project goals. Her creative forward-thinking propels Bolson toward exciting new business opportunities.

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