GATESVILLE — While on the road constructing metal buildings all over Texas, Dean Smith spent a lot of time in trailer parks.
Like many workers in transit, Smith found the cheapest living quarters near a job site were usually a recreational vehicle in a camper park.
Nine years ago, Smith went from traveler to innkeeper when he opened Texas Station RV Park and Storage on State Highway 36 south of Gatesville.
He started with six hook-ups and 20 RV storage spaces on five acres. They filled quickly and Smith started adding more.
“I built as it grew,” he said. “It filled up faster than I could expand.”
The site maxed out at 30 hook-ups and 96 storage units, he said, so he bought 15 acres down the road and put in another 31 hookups and 50 storage units plus an event center for meetings and reunions.
Texas Station is one of four camper parks around Gatesville and is by far the largest.
The key to success in an RV park, Smith said, is screening the clientele. He wants newer trailers and RVs — 2000 models and newer — but will make exceptions for well-kept vintage models such as a 1970s Airstream motor home now in his park.
Construction on North Fort Hood has caused a boom in business, Smith said. An oil pipeline set to start construction this fall will also bring customers.
“Most customers are people in transition,” he said. “Someone buying a house or going through a divorce and looking for a temporary place to stay.”
A few of his campers are retired and have taken up permanent residence in the park.
Some of the winter campers are “snow birds” from up north who drive south for milder temperatures.
“I usually have a couple of openings for overnight campers,” he said, but he considers the new location maxed out and is looking for more room to expand.
“I’m ready to add on again,” Smith said.