The new owners of the Flat Rock RV Park credit a change in culture for creating a sudden uptick in visitors from all over the world.

Park Managers Gino Marino and Lisa Smith spent much of their adult years on the road in their own RV. After years on the road, they came to Lake Brownwood and used their experiences at other parks to create what Marino believes is the hidden jewel of central Texas.

“We’ve had people come and camp with us from Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Iraq,” Marino said. “We’ve had people from four different countries come here and camp and we always want to know ‘How did you find us? How did you find our park?’ They all have the same response. ‘We found you on Google or the internet, read the reviews and saw the pictures and we had to come and see it.’ It’s amazing.”

Marino believes the change in culture comes from taking more egalitarian values instead of simply what generates the most profits. During the day entry into the park is free, attracting locals who add a central Texas flavor to its various free events such as an upcoming Fourth of July fireworks show or attending a weekly show by musician D.J. Pena.

“We brought back tent camping,” Marino said. “They did not have tent camping here for years. We built it by hand. We built all of the signs, painted all of the tables, trimmed all of the trees and built all of the campfire sites by hand so we can bring back tent camping and so many people are glad to see we brought tent camping back to Flat Rock Park. Of course, we have great fishing in our waters and a designated swimming area so people can bring their children here and swim in a safe place free from boat traffic and jet skis. As far as I know, we have the only regulation sand volleyball court in the area and our volleyball court stays busy. It’s almost a nightly thing.”

Marino said he wanted to make staying the night much easier for everyone, whether a seasoned RV veteran, an RV novice, fishermen or other outdoor enthusiasts. One innovation is offering parking assistance for each RV and the personal touch of insuring each space has a front and back yard so there are plenty of opportunities for guests to take in the splendor that is Lake Brownwood.

“It’s a compilation of several ideas we acquired from our own travels,” Marino said. “For example, most RV parks in the world park their RVs shoulder to shoulder so they can get more RVs into their spaces. Our RVs are spaced apart so every RV has a front and back yard and grass on the sides so people don’t open their doors and run right into another RV.

“We do a lot of things that focus on customer service. Once they come to the office, check in, and take care of the paperwork, we assist them in parking their RVs into our spots. That is the most common compliment we get. Once they get parked, we help them connect their hoses, power cables and get them all set before we leave them.”

Marino believes having a hands-on approach allows visitors of all experiences and backgrounds to come, enjoy Mother Nature and return the next year. By allowing novices, tent campers and even those visiting for free to fish or swim, it adds more diversity to its guests, who often intermingle and come away with a richer experience.

“We have managed the park for a year and a half and when we got here the park did not have a very good culture,” Marino said. “It wasn’t kept very well and we thought the first thing we had to do was change the culture. That’s why we focus on children, keeping it clean, making it free, but the park didn’t have a good reputation. Go to Google and find the reviews.

“You can see a clear difference … Now from seeing just a few people in the park every single weekend we’re booked solid. We’re packed with hundreds of people in the swimming area, 50 or 60 playing volleyball. When we first got here, we were desperate. We just wanted people to give us a chance and it took off from there. Now the word is definitely out.”

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