March 16, 2010. It’s a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day, the flowers are starting to bloom, and we’re catching up with Mike Gurevich, owner of the park.
Q: Can you give me a brief history of Cherry Hill Park?
A: We relocated here in 1989, from our location on Rt. 1, only one mile away. We were there for 70 years-is that right? Let’s say it was 1920, we opened up here in 1989, 1990, so 70 years there, 20 years here, and that location was a mobile home park, and always took in campers, and we wanted to build a state-of-the art campground resort, so we relocated here in 1989, and we just finished our 20th year. Yeah, 90 years, that’s a long time. Four generations, plus my kids, 5 generations, if they stay in.
When I grew up, my grandparents lived there, so I grew up there, my father worked all the time there, and we moved into that location during the summer, so it’s part of the family.
Q: So what did you start out doing there, as a young whippersnapper?
A: My first job was leading people out to their campsites, by bicycle. I found that if you take them out by bicycle, you get a tip. If you take them out by golf cart, no tip. Now a tip was ten cents, but that was pretty exciting back then. And we had a lot of sewer problems-that’s one of my big memories at the old park, cleaning out a lot of sewers, cleaning bathrooms.
Q: And when you moved to the new location, one of the things you vowed to make sure of, was-
A: Dynamite sewers, yeah. [Laughs]
Q: Now that spring is in full gear, what kind of work is involved in getting the park ready for the season?
A: Well, one of the things we do in the winter, is we turn off the water to two-thirds of the park. So it’s turning the water back on, making sure no pipes froze during the winter. It’s mostly water issues. But this year, campsites took a beating, between the snow, and they had a lot of wear over the last few years-so we’re putting gravel down on all the sites, painting picnic tables. “Paint everything that moves” is pretty much our motto during the winter, but this year we weren’t able to do as much because of the snow. Those are the two big things, and just weeding, planting flowers, general stuff, whatever we can get done before we have to start cutting grass.
Q: What’s unique about running a park so close to DC?
A: That is an excellent question. The thing about Washington, DC, and having a campground in a big metropolitan area, is there’s so much that happens that’s totally out of your control. Most things that happen in DC are good-we have an inauguration, DC gets great publicity. We have a sniper, DC gets terrible publicity. Those are things that really drive the business, that we really have no say in the matter. 9/11 was a big hit to the business. But because DC’s such a big draw, it always comes back. People take a year off, and they come back. That’s the great hing about this location.
The other things about DC, I guess it is a little bit harder, because of the traffic. It is an issue, it is a concern. Now the nice thing is, on the other hand is we’re able to get public transportation, because there’s so much traffic, because it’s such a big city, we’re able to get the public transportation, which is crucial to the business.
Q: And throughout the year, you’ll get various groups coming through, be it protest groups, or Rolling Thunder, you really get all kinds here.
A: Yeah, we get it all, every kind of protest group, and supporters and detractors of government, we get ’em all.
Q: Some would call you a “passionate environmentalist“-
A: I spare no expense at trying to save energy! [Laughs]
Q: What are some things you’ve done here at Cherry Hill Park to save energy?
A: Well, over the course of time, we’ve changed our light bulbs many times, and now we’ve gone predominately with compact fluorescents, and electronic fluorescent tubes, as opposed to the old tubes, which used 40 watts, and the electronic ones use 32 watts. The compact fluorescents are a big thing, we’ve been doing that for a long time. This past year, we did the solar electric system, the photoelectric power generating grid on the office, and that’ll generate 10,000 watts of power at any one time, especially on a nice day like this, we’re very close to peak. And it’ll do 12,000 kilowatt-hours in a year, it did create 12,000 kilowatt-hours this pat year, exactly what it was supposed to do.
In the Conference Center this year, we’re doing a similarly-sized project, that’ll take care of all our hot water needs through solar panels. We use so much hot water during the spring, summer, and fall, but part of the building is heated with hot water, and we’ll be able to use the same system to heat the building in the winter. So we’ll be able to utilize the system year-round. We’re very excited about that, and we’re working on that right now, it should come online in a week or two.
And we’re going to add solar panels for the swimming pool-something we’ve been doing on our own for the last few years-now we’re going to put in the proper amount of panels, really do a nice job of heating the pool, and make sure everybody is happier with the temperature of the pool.
Q: And the lightbulbs, the solar panels, these are things you’ve already seen an effect from.
A: Oh yeah, we’ve been doing it for a long time. And we’ve always done recycling, I think we were one of the first campgrounds to do a full recycling program. We’ve been doing that for 20 years, as long as we’ve been here.
Q: Looking forward, what are some things you’ve got in the pipeline for Cherry Hill?
A: So, the big projects?
A: We’re going to put in some more lodging facilities. Cabins is the number one thing we want to do. These will be full service, full amenity cabins with kitchens and bathrooms and sleeping accommodations for 6-10 people. Our goal is to put in 25 of these cabins over the next five years. We hope to break ground at the end of this year, or the early 2011. In addition to that, in that project, over the next X number of years-we don’t know how long-there’s going to be a real nice golf course, an indoor pool, and somewhere down the line, a lodge.
Q: Okay, last question. What excites you about 2010?
A: What is exciting about 2010? I think the NCAA Tournament is pretty exciting, hockey finals would be nice! Um, I have no idea [laughs]. We are always looking forward to hosting people in Washington, DC. Washington, DC has a lot to offer, people don’t know what there is to see down here. I think that every year, that’s the most exciting part-when people come down here, see what there is to visit in Washington, DC-and to see the people coming off the bus, very, very tired from sightseeing and walking all day. But you can tell that people have enjoyed themselves. That’s very exciting.
Q: That about wraps it up. Anything you’d like to add?
A: We have the best employees. Ever.