The history of the Klein Oisterwijk Regional Park BY Ernst Jonkers
1967 Camping De Boskant
‘Grandpa Kees Rijnen, my mother's father, had a mixed-use farm. In 1965, when he heard there was growing demand for campsites, he applied for a permit to open up a 5-hectare plot on his farm to campers. Two years later, in 1967, Mayor Funk officially declared the campsite open for business, under the name De Boskant. Grandpa's ten children all pitched in, lending a helping hand around the campsite. Because Joke, my mother, had experience working at the Rozep estate, she took care of the financial side of the park and studied for certifications that would help her run a business. She bought a piece of land from grandpa next to the PNEM house, where she built the house I grew up in. My parents still live there.
In 1972, my grandfather was in a serious hunting accident that left him blind. He very much wanted his son, Jan, to take over the campsite. After a few years, Jan decided to take on work elsewhere, so Co took over from him. My mother married Steef Jonkers and her brother, Kees, married José. Circumstances dictated that Co had to sell the campsite in 1995, and my parents, together with Kees and José, decided to buy it.
Camping run by the Jonkers and Rijnen families
The sale was final in just three weeks. I'd been saying that I wanted to run a campsite since I was 12 or 13 years old, so I became the business manager. Even though I studied something completely different, Structural Administration, the knowledge I gained there still comes in handy. There was a huge backlog of major maintenance that needed to be done, and through the years we've made major investments in the sewer systems, electricity, a new toilet block, tourist attractions, playgrounds, and a swimming pool.
My philosophy is to make the campsite blend naturally into the beautiful natural environment around Oisterwijk by stretching the campsite up to the edge of the Regional Park. But there was one small problem: 7 hectares of land between the forest and the Regional Park. In 1998, I had the opportunity to buy that land. It was years later that we were able to build up the moors that now create a natural link between the two areas. We also had plans for further expansion. But it was ten years before we were granted a permit. It was a long process that took some endurance, but I've always stayed positive. In the meantime, the Rijnen family decided to sell their share of the campsite to the Jonkers family and I became a co-owner.
Purchase of Fransebaan land
In 2005, the Jonkers family bought a piece of land on the Fransebaan, which included the Eigen Haard Park Villa. The idea was to turn it into a regional spa, focused on the natural environment, so that we could start operating year round. I'd planned to build facilities like a hay barn sauna and use the birch tree sap to create our own crèmes. I applied for a permit to get started, based on trend reports. But the permit wasn’t granted until we were already deep into the recession. Plans for the regional spa disappeared. Since we bought it, the Eigen Haard Park Villa has been rented out to large groups.
Implementation of the plans
We were also granted other permits during the recession. Step by step, we slowly began building up the moors, along with a new entrance and new parking spaces, a nature playground, a fruit orchard, and an herb garden. You can get a beautiful view of that garden while enjoying a drink in the Streekcafé (regional café). We also created several new tourist areas. In the meantime, I was busy profiling the campsite as more of a regional park, and we started to reach a new target audience: day tourist. My ambition is to help our guests and day visitors experience the region in and outside of the park, and to make connections with the local farmers and businesses that make the region what it is.
Klein Oisterwijk Regional Park
The new name, Klein Oisterwijk Regional Park, was born in 2013, when I discovered that the campsite was located in a spot that was once called Klein Oisterwijk. We've since expanded our target audience to include day tourists. From the Regional Park, which is also the entrance to Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest) and serves as a visitor's centre and Nature Outpost, these tourists are able to hike and cycle. We also provide packages for the commercial market, which always include a trip to somewhere in the region. And we haven't forgotten the young holidaymaker. Together with our park mascots, Isabella and Gijs, we help them experience the outdoors and imagine their own fantasy stories. In the nature playground, they can have fun with natural materials and splash through the surging waterfall. Here, they're allowed to get dirty.
With our move to Triodos Bank, a sustainable bank, plans for a regional spa have been revived and I'm in talks with two partners to help make it a reality. We're also working on other plans, like expanding 't Klauterwoud, our rib & burger restaurant, where we serve regional dishes. The outdoors and the regional experience will, of course, be an integral part of that: delicious food in the forest. So there are plenty of promising developments on the horizon.