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Park Models to Rebound ‘Slow and Gradual’

William Garpow, RPTIA

William Garpow, RPTIA

The recreational park trailer segment of the RV industry took its hits just like traditional RV builders during the Great Recession. And its recovery may take a bit longer than the mainstream towable market.

That’s according to William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), who says park models’ customer base is the cause.

”The reason is, our particular consumer is 55 to 70 years of age,” Garpow told RVBUSINESS.com. ”They are facing retirement and their 401(k) took a 35% dip and their house dropped 30% in value. They haven’t got the time to make back the dollars they had before they retire.

”As a consequence, they still may want to get into a park trailer, but they have to do everything they can to build their nest egg while they are still working.”

Garpow reported that shipments of park trailers reached a high of about 12,000 units in 2006 before falling to about 6,0000 units last year. ”Still, that wasn’t as bad as other segments of the industry and now 20% of what we lost has come back,” he said. ”But it’s slow and gradual.”

New Pinnacle Park Homes park model with twin porches

New Pinnacle Park Homes park model with twin porches

One thing going for park trailer dealers during the economic turbulence, Garpow said, was that most weren’t under pressure from lenders to bring down large inventories. ”Park trailers traditionally are not inventoried,” he said. ”The products that we are shipping are custom built, so we weren’t affected by that.”

Some of the park models on display at last week's Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa.

Some of the park models on display at last week's Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey, Pa.

He said RPTIA, with headquarters in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Ga., ”hasn’t lost any significant number of manufacturers,” during the downturn and that business right now ”is steady and it seems to be fairly decent.”

A factor working in favor of the park trailer segment’s recovery is an emphasis on adding park models as rental units at rates several times higher than those charged for regular campground sites by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Jellystone franchiser Leisure Systems Inc. and other parks.

”We identified this has a very strong potential market about 15 years ago,” Garpow said. ”The rental part has really come alive in the last three or four years.”

Fairmont Park Trailer display at Hershey show.

Fairmont Park Trailer display at Hershey show.

For campgrounds in designated rural areas that want to expand their park model inventory, Garpow said the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a viable source of guaranteed financing.

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Comments Disabled To "Park Models to Rebound ‘Slow and Gradual’"

#1 Comment By Jeff Cole On September 27, 2010 @ 11:01 am

Dear Goldenburg or Ashley,
My wife and I are looking to sell our home and may want to get into a 4 season park trailer on our own land. We are interested in an after-market wood burning stove “Bakers Oven” as the main source of heat and back-up cook top/oven. I have glimpsed on the internet vague warnings that woodstoves are not to be installed in park model trailers. Could you please expound on this? Also, could modifications be made to a park model that would allow such a unit to be safely installed?
Thank You for your response.

#2 Comment By Steve Bibler On October 4, 2010 @ 7:49 am

Jeff: we relayed your inquiry to William Garpow of the RPTIA. Here is his response.
Jeff: Call me before you even consider either living in a Recreational Park Trailer (RPT) as your full time domicile or, consider using an oxygen burning stove in a 400 square foot structure. The heater in that small space could be deadly with carbon monoxide and the zoning and planning departments of the local units of Government will usually not let you use a RPT as a dwelling as it is intended and designed for use as a vacation and seasonal unit.

What you envisioned doing looks like a really good and value packed housing bargain. Sorry to say in most places it will not be allowed.


William R. Garpow, Executive Director
Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association, Inc.
30 Greenville Street, 2nd. Floor
Newnan, Georgia 30263

#3 Comment By JERRY SMITH On March 25, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

are any permits required State, or county to locate a park model rv on my own river front land 106 acres in north ga.