New owners take over at KOA

by nathan oster

A couple from Florida has purchased the Greybull KOA from longtime owners Cor and Maria Bijvank.

Barry and Kim Rudge, who closed on the property March 21, traded in their careers — he renovated homes, she was an attorney — and the hustle-and-bustle of dodging snowbirds for a radically different lifestyle, manning a campground that attracts guests from around the world.

How it came to be “was a fluke … there’s no other way to describe it,” said Barry.

He had lived in the Bradenton area for more than 30 years, Kim for more than 20, when in the course of visiting the west’s national parks their vehicle broke down coming over the Big Horns via U.S. Highway 16 in the summer of 2016.

They returned to Buffalo, got their vehicle fixed, and set out again. This time, they made it over. But when they got to Worland, their vehicle required even more work. The difficulties impacted their itineraries — and eventually, they ended up spending a night at the Greybull KOA, where they met the Bijvanks and learned that the campground was for sale.

Intrigued by the prospect of owning it, the Rudges spent last summer as KOA “work campers,” watching Cor and Maria run the place while working four to five hours a day, four days a week. They enjoyed it immensely, made an offer and the Bijvanks accepted it.

Since then, they’ve sold their three homes in Florida and begun preparing for the 2018 season.

Barry said likes that there “aren’t as many cars or as many people” in Wyoming. “Basically you have very few of the big city problems here. Those are the things we couldn’t stand anymore. We lived in a retirement house in the country…then all of a sudden, five years later, it was in the middle of a town.”

Added Kim, “Sarasota and Bradenton are hotspots right now. Snowbirds come in and a lot never leave. It’s the point where you can’t get to the beach or get to the restaurant; all the charm of living Florida was gone.”

Kim admitted that if their vehicle hadn’t broken down, they might never have gotten to know the Greybull community or the Big Horn Basin. While they won’t be able to camp as much in the summer, they both said they are looking forward to meeting new people and working together, something they didn’t get to do as much in Florida.

The Rudges also credited the Bijvanks for the condition of the Greybull KOA, noting that they acquired “a nice, clean slate” that won’t require much, if anything, in the area of upgrades. The KOA has 34 RV stalls, six cabins and nine tent locations. There’s also a restaurant, where they serve breakfast to their campers, and a store to manage.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of learning this year — how to be campground owners, how to be restaurant owners and how to be store owners,” said Barry.

They intend to live in Greybull year-round … “or at least until we experience our first day when it’s 20 below zero,” laughed Barry. “We got here at the beginning of March and saw our first snow in 30 years. Drove in it. Got stuck in it.”

Kim added, “We were like little kids, making snowballs and just enjoying it.”

All kidding aside, Barry said, “Summers here are really nice. When it’s 102 here and you all think it’s hot, it won’t be to us.”