Silver Dove Estates is located on 100 acres of beautiful wooded hill country, in Southwestern Ontario. The owners, John and Sandra Benjamins, were awarded the 2015 Entrepreneur of the year award by CFDC Middlesex.
Before opening Silver Dove Estates on May 1st, 2014, John and Sandra Benjamins were Hog Cash crop farmers. They raised 7 children with the farming agricultural industry and were ready for a new phase in their life: “We wanted to work outside more than inside the barns, so we looked for something different. We had a few rules, one was that Jon and I wanted to work together as husband and wife, and the other was that Jon said he would still like to own some land. So then, we got into the campground industry”.
Silver Dove Estates underwent some major demolition before opening. When John and Sandra first came to the site, there were 39 trailers, 4 of which were abandoned. Today, Silver Dove holds 108 seasonal up and running sites, 36 new seasonal sites, and the zoning rights for 22 mobile homes.
Silver Dove Estates is a community: “I have to praise the people in the park, there’s a lot of social volunteers and they totally run the social committee inside the park. The volunteers are like family, I couldn’t run the park without them. Every Friday night they give up their time for our Friday night barbecues, there are crafts and wagon rides…there’s a lot on that committee”.
The park holds a supportive seniors’ community and accommodates family and friends in the summer months for overnight and seasonal camping. They offer 12-month living, seasonal sites, and family camping. With amenities such as a swimming pool, rec hall, mini golf, tennis courts, shuffleboard, horseshoe pits and hiking trails, the site has something relaxing to offer all ages.
The site employs summer students who assist in running the store and lifeguarding the pool. Many aspects of the Benjamins business is in conjunction with the municipality. Sandra explains that they did their best to ensure that the municipality was behind them: “We walked into it kind of blindly, but when you have a township that works with you, you can accomplish more than if they’re fighting against you.”
Eighty percent of the Benjamins business is within a 45 min drive: “We were very surprised by that when we first took it over. But that way they can have a seasonal site and take a longer vacation. They’ll come here on the weekends and feel like they got away from home, and some live here for 2 months out of the summer with the kids and they drive to work from here”.
Sandra says she believes that people continue to come to the park for the “social part of it. Lots of people love the pool, it’s usually open for May 24 weekend and they do a polar bear dip. It’s a home away from home, that’s why most of the seasonals are here.”
Silver Dove Estates Mission:
“That we can bring tourism to Southwest Middlesex and that we can also provide affordable housing for seniors. The fact that it can be such a community out in the country is amazing. It’s a totally different way of retiring and I know some people head south, but lots don’t because they don’t have the means to, so they have a community here.”
So what’s in store for this campsite?
John and Sandra: “We enjoy the development, but then there’s also time to give back as well. We’re hoping to have 200 seasonal sites and right now we have 144. We also have put in applications to Ducks Unlimited for some funding and we’re hoping to give some back to the community for migrating birds. The Lower Thames conservation area has rights to the property, so the funding could be of assistance to the untouchable land areas. Water is always a good attraction so if we can assist them in that way, we would love to.”
For the readers:
“I would like to say we’re a local campground with a family atmosphere. Jon and I are Christians, and we strongly believe that honesty is the best policy. We hope to be able to enjoy that family aspect of life. We find it very important for children, which are the future of Ontario and we would really like to see strong family values. Camping is a great way to have a strong family.”
Silver Dove Estates offers a true little secret getaway for families and friends. Once you visit the site, you will understand why Sandra calls this beautiful campground her 'Southern Ontario Muskoka getaway'.
Contact: 4838 Switzer Drive, Appin, ON N0L 1A0 519-289-2100 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Business Help Centre (CFDC) of Middlesex County is staffed by a team of business professionals who encourage entrepreneurship and the pursuit of economic opportunities. Funding support for the corporation is realized through partnership with FedDev Ontario. As part of the Community Futures program, the Community Futures Development Corporation of Middlesex County provides the following:
● Business Consulting & Resources ● Term Loan Investment in Small Business ● Community Economic Development
The Business Help Centre “has been awesome. When we went to purchase this property, some of the banks weren’t sure about us. Community Futures program helped us put a business plan together, made us write resumes, and challenged us. It was good, it’s a good learning curve for any one in business. That professional support has been wonderful, they’re always there for us”. - John & Sandra Benjamins