Wendy Oaks Campground

Tale of Two Sisters: A Campground Love Story

Like many siblings, Melanie Wagner and her sister Wendy were direct opposites. Melanie was a spender. Wendy was a saver. Melanie wanted to make her way in the world outside of Mississippi where they grew up, but Wendy loved calling the state home. Wendy hated technology while Melanie was a computer science major. And the list goes on.

“We couldn't have been any different,” Melanie says, “but my big sister always looked out for me and had my back.”wendy oaks lake

The two sisters also differed in their career goals. Melanie was a successful, driven medical device sales rep who lived in Nashville. Wendy, on the other hand, had a dream to build, own and manage her own RV park. In 2002, she made that dream come true by building Wendy Oaks RV Resort in Florence, Miss. in a peaceful wooded area with a scenic, eight-acre fishing lake. In 2003, she opened the park to RV travelers as a place to lay over for a night or just relax and unwind for a couple of days in a beautiful setting. She designed the campground to have large, pull-through sites with grass yards, plenty of shade from the trees on the wooded lot, and ample space between each site for a little extra elbow room.

“I thought I was successful,” Melanie says, “but what my sister managed to create amazes me. I couldn't be prouder of what she accomplished and for following her dreams. Unfortunately, my beautiful and loving sister passed away in early 2020. Due to health issues over the years, she was unable to make much-needed repairs and upgrades to improve the amenities and operations to fully realize her complete vision for the RV park.”

A few months before she passed away, Wendy made the decision that if anything ever happened to her, she would leave the campground to Melanie. While running an RV park was not part of Melanie’s life plans, she gave it her best and tried to run the campground from her home in Nashville while still working her corporate job. That turned out to be impossible, so she took a six-week leave of absence to spend some time at Wendy Oaks and figure things out. She thought she would find a manager to run the operation, go back to her life and job in Nashville then eventually sell the park.

But then, something totally unexpected happened.

“Once I was at Wendy Oaks surrounded by all the beautiful nature and the lake, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and I felt closer to my sister,” Melanie says. “I understood why she was so passionate about the campground and why she loved it so much. During my first week here, I made the decision to quit my job, move to Mississippi and manage the RV park full time.”

She admits that at first, she had a bit of a learning curve. “I had to Google what a Class A was,” she laughs.

Fortunately, about five years ago, Melanie spent a week with her sister going over the books and looking for ways to save money. That experience turned out to be invaluable in her new role as park owner. Now, she’s building upon her sister’s vision by making the upgrades she knows Wendy would have made to create not just a layover park but more of a destination where RV travelers would want to spend two, three or more days.

Wendy Oaks Sunset

“Wendy Oaks has come a long way in the last year,” Melanie says. “We now have a website, a new logo, accept all major credit cards, have a convenient online reservation system, quick/easy full hook-ups, park-wide Wi-Fi at all sites (especially important for those who work remotely), a security system/cameras for safety and more. There's still a lot of potential to expand on what my sister started, and I have even more plans in the works for new amenities.”

Melanie described what made her sister so special.

“Wendy was really bubbly and really great with customers and they loved her. She had a dream and I just love the fact that she went for it. Now that I'm taking over the business, I talk to her all the time and let her know that I wish I'd understood all she really did to make that dream happen, and how much it takes to run a campground. I had no idea. She made it look so easy. My sister dedicated almost 20 years of her life to making Wendy Oaks more than just another layover park. Now, in my sister's memory, I'm committed to carrying on her legacy and turning the RV park into a must-visit destination. I want her to be as proud of me as I was of her.”


Wendy Oaks Campground