Campland on the Bay: much more than meets the eye
by Marsha Kay Seff
Published - 11/21/12 - 02:37 PM | 29349 views | 3 3 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marshall Wiseman stands at the entrance to Campland on the Bay, where he has served as general manager since 1980. 
Photo by Marsha Kay Seff I Beach & Bay Press
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Campland on the Bay’s lease with the city is due to expire in 2017 and the property is to be returned to marshland, according to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan. But Campland general manager Marshall Wiseman believes there’s some wiggle room.

“We’re working our tails off to be able to stay where we are,” said Wiseman. “Campland (which opened in 1969) is the perfect use for land in Mission Bay Park. [Whatever the outcome], we will be on Mission Bay somehow.”

Tucked between the Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Reserve and Rose Creek, the 42-acre campground has been the purview of the general manager and “problem-solver” since 1980. Wiseman, who studied physics and laser optics and has a degree in business management, hosts more than 40,000 campers a year and as many as 3,000 on a summer weekend. And now, with the high price of gas, 80 percent of his visitors are regional, opting for “staycations” that include as many as four generations of some families, Wiseman said.

Some visitors have camped at the site off and on since it opened.

While many guests come for a day or two, others might stay up to the limit of 90 days at one time.

Hookups range from a low of $50 a day in the off-season to a high of $361 during summer. For just $10 in the offseason, visitors in cars, on foot or on bicycles can enjoy a day of boating, bird-watching and swimming and receive a refund by showing a marina or café receipt.

Eager to share his vision for this “little city,” the 63-year-old GM hops in his golf cart. With nearly 600 campsites, there’s room for everything from tents to pop-ups, fifth wheels and million-dollar-plus motorhomes measuring up to 45 feet.

Wiseman said the so-called “glampers” really make themselves at home, toting dune buggies, outdoor carpets and even water fountains. For those who want to store their equipment on site, there is space for 315 boats and RVs.

The father of six, grandpa of eight and great-granddad times three points out the market, café and ice cream parlor and children’s playground. “I built that.”

He also swings by the arcade, complete with electronic games and old-fashioned pinball machines, and the basketball court and skate park. Still on his “to-do” list is the creation of a specialty bike park.

Campland boasts an eighth-of-a-mile-long beachfront and marina, with 124 slips open to the public and rental paddleboats, kayaks, jet skis and bicycles.

A fitness room, two heated pools and a pair of spas (Wiseman designed a 400-square-foot crescent-shaped spa for 27 people) are popular, as are venues for live bands and karaoke. Wiseman said he “pre-plans” all the projects, then does “magic at the end,” as with the off-leash dog park.

Wiseman, a rower and bicyclist who has hiked Half Dome and Mt. Whitney, oversees 150 full-time and seasonal employees and everything from a large maintenance-workshop to underground plumbing.

Among his favorite jobs is creating new venues to keep visitors returning.

“The more we can do to involve ourselves in what the campers come here for, the better,” he said. To those ends, “You have to be a good neighbor.”

But it’s obvious that his passion for helping the surrounding community is more than business.

Campland is the center of operations for the annual San Diego Crew Classic. The park also hosts running events, car clubs and a music-lovers group. Campland supported the construction of the bridge over Rose Creek, enabling bicyclists and walkers to go from the South Mission Beach Jetty through Pacific Beach to the Ocean Beach Pier. And Campland will be part of the Rose Creek awareness festival in February, building a 12-by-40-foot waterside mural for locals to color.

Wiseman and his maintenance crew removed the mangroves that threatened to overtake Kendall-Frost and the campground and its guests participate in Campland Cares, a project that has raised $30,000 for the Homeless Youth Outreach Project.

“I walk into the park that’s been here (for decades) and ask what I can do to make it better every day,” he said.

He stops his golf cart at the wooden welcome sign at the entrance to the park and points out with a smirk, “I broke the ‘W.’ ”

• CAMPLAND ON THE BAY, 2211 Pacific Beach Dr., (800) 4-BAY-FUN,
Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 22, 2012
Fortunately the Mission Bay Master Plan does not "require" Campland to close down in 2017, it merely suggests it as a possibility. It would be a tragedy if Campland was shut down. Tens of thousands of happy Campers would be devastated. Our cash strapped City would lose literally millions of dollars in rent and tax revenue! And the Master Plan suggests that Campland be replaced by not marsh but a water filtration plant that has been found to not work. We want Campland for future generations!
Mike Sauce
December 20, 2016
The politicians have wanted this property for years (for their golf course and their private adjenda).Do you really think they care about our families having fun here at Campland ?
February 09, 2017
campland in a parking lot
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