Four Generations of Bakers mixing in 50 years of camping tradition to the LBI Region
Little Egg Harbor’s Baker’s Acres Campground is Founded in Family
Reds and Anne Baker loved camping, realizing that is was the most cost effective vacation a family can take. With their five children, they would explore different areas. They belonged to the Levittown Camping Club and rock hunted when vacationing in NY State and PA, and enjoyed the beauty of the shore. But it was a draw to Southern Ocean County where a chance meeting with previous mayor of Barnegat, Elmer Seaman where Reds’ dream of opening his own campground become part of Jersey Shore history. Reds, a WWII veteran, knew he wanted to establish a welcoming, affordable and enjoyable place for families to make their own memories. The Seaman family owned a tract of land in Parkertown (now part of Little Egg Harbor Township) where Elmer’s father was willing to not only sell the land to Bakers, but to hold the note as well. The deal was made with a handshake and to this day the grand opening photo hangs in the Baker’s Acres Store; where Reds, Anne and Elmer are cutting the ribbon together.
The family history also reflects some turbulence with zoning issues, shortly after the campground opened. Anne fought a two year battle with the help of an attorney. It took a considerable amount of time and all their savings, but they won and were able to reopen the campground. The Baker’s had many good years, filled with new camping families and a gradual growth of the business. Reds, who saw his dream become a reality, lost his life while fighting the Bass River State Forest Fire in June 1977. He and three other brave volunteer fire fighters were caught between the back burn and the approaching blaze. Reds was the face of Baker’s Acres and he was missed tremendously. Jack, the current owner, was still a teenager at that time, and took on his father’s responsibilities along with his mother Anne. Jack recognized the big shoes he had to fill. He’s the steward of our old growth forest; a responsibility he’s never taken lightly. A strange silver resulted from that fire. Because of the blaze, my mother’s family was evacuated from Bass River and went to Baker’s Acres to finish up their camping trip. Jack met and fell in love with Maureen whose family was a seasonal campers. In 1981 they married and ran the business alongside Anne. A decade later, Anne was ready to retire; Jack and Maureen purchased the campground. Along with their children Monica, John and Jason, 2018 the family will celebrate 50 years as a multi-generational, family-owned and operated business. Jack taught his children two valuable lessons, first to be a steward of the their old growth forest and second that three sticks bound together are much stronger than individual sticks.
At the core of our business, each of the family has their own role. With Monica Baker-Frazer handling scheduling, store and marketing, John and Jason managing the grounds, outside staff and larger food/entertainment events. Jack oversees everything and reminds the family of their duty as campground owners. Maureen takes care of the book keeping and is still in charge of feeding everyone. There have been many extended family members work with the Bakers throughout the years. Many of cousins grew up with the campground as their first job, supporting them through college or their young adulthood. In-law’s have also added to the success. This included Maureen’s brothers working the grounds, Jack’s sister Gail and her husband Conrad Brenner, helped out a great deal over the years, as well. Of course, the matriarch Anne, ran the campground until she retired in the early nineties where she still continues to live in her retirement house on the edge of the property and recently celebrated her 91 birthday along with the 4th Generation of the camping family Michael, Matthew, Malcolm, John Frank IV and another arriving this spring.
Monica sums up the uniqueness of working within a family business “Work comes with us to every family event and every family event eventually turns to work. Most of our conversations are “shop talk”, even if we don’t intend them to be. The campground has kept my family together. I get to work with my brothers, who are my closest friends.” Along with their parents, over a dozen aunts and uncles, the Baker children also had a great deal of campground seasonal “family”. With appreciation for them all; the Bakers are happy to make everyone happy; and feel that welcoming them back every year and meeting the new additions to their families is one of the best part of owning a campground. Over the past few years, Monica, John, Jason and have taken on a greater deal of the responsibilities; transitioning from kids who helped out, to employees, to managers and now partners. This has opened their eyes to what their parents have had to do for so long. It’s not and never will be a nine to five job. They also embrace change in and around the campground. Technology has impacted their industry, they have seen the dawning of the selfie age and what it’s done to real social gatherings. They take on the challenge to create activities that will engage young campers, while trying to get the adults out of their gorgeous RVs. When they do find an event which everyone has a positive response, they continue to improve the experience each year.
Outside the campground, Little Egg and Tuckerton are a growing tourist destination and the family have a lot of plans to continue to modernize their facilities and to stay ahead of the needs of the campers. With the next generation keeping true to the original motto “Where Friends are Made for Life”, the campground started by Reds 50 years ago will continue to welcome many more families and work hard to make them Happy Campers.