For the past 18 years, Jerry and Harriet Wiles have owned the KOA Campground which is located just off Interstate 75 at Exit 20, on Pleasant Grove Road.
The couple raised their children camping while Jerry spent his early years as a surface coal miner. The Wiles’ migrated south and looked at a campground for sale in Georgia.
The deal fell through but Jerry and his brother were contacted about the Chattanooga North (Cleveland) location.
It was for sale, but had only three acres of camping space.
The Wiles purchased the small campground and through the years, bought acreage which had formerly been leased by the previous owner.
“We have bought 20 acres and expanded to 100 camp sites with full hookups,” Jerry said.
The couple has also constructed 11 small cabins and one larger camping cottage on the property.
“The cabins are small and some have restrooms and televisions, but are mainly sleeping cabins,” he added.
“Visitors really like the little cabins,” Jerry said.
Business has been affected by the slow economy, according to Jerry, but with industry such as WACKER, Volkswagen and others moving into the area, many of the construction workers migrated to the KOA and pulled their RVs to set up camp.
“We are fortunate in this area. Travelers staying here are down a bit but growth has helped us out. We are better off than most,” Jerry said.
The sites have water, cable television and sewer hookups as well as WiFi capabilities.
KOA also has a small game room, laundry, playground, swimming pool and picnic pavilion.
“We also provide RV storage. A lot of campers from the north will bring their RVs and store them here — leave the snowy weather and drive here to pick it up and head further south for the winter. That way they don’t have to drive their rigs in the snow,” Jerry said.
In the past years, KOA and the Wiles have provided music and other entertainment for campers and visitors.
“We want to be able to do that again someday. Since the economy slowed, we had to re-evaluate and will consider it as the economy improves,” Jerry said. “We love meeting people and we have a great many campers return here.”
The Wiles raised their family camping across the country and loved it so much that they wanted their own campground to share with others.
They love the history of the Cleveland and Chattanooga area and the location is ideal for travelers to begin their destination points for sightseeing.
The Civil War Trail, Trail of Tears and Cherokee Passport, the Lookout Mountain Incline, the Chattanooga Aquarium, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and simply the Tennessee mountainscapes along with many other sites are what the visitors come for, he said.
KOA is the abbreviation of “Kampgrounds of America” and has more 400 campgrounds nationwide.