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Fed-Run Campgrounds Tap Into Rental Cabins

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May 31, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

Campgrounds used to be the exclusive domain of RV and tent camping enthusiasts. But that’s changing, thanks to the growing market appeal of rental cabins.

According to a release by the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), state, federal and local parks in Texas and California are increasingly supplementing their RV and tent sites with portable “park model” cabins, which often come equipped with full-size kitchens and bathrooms and, in some cases, lofts for the kids.

And they’re finding that consumer demand for these units is so strong that they book up even faster than traditional RV and tent sites.

“We figure that 18% to 20% of the population has an RV or pop-up trailer — but by having a park model cabin, you’ve increased your market share by 80%,” said Joe Moore, manager of The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas.

Operated by Grapevine’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Vineyards installed its first five park model cabins in 2006. The cabins were so successful that they paid for themselves within 20 months and are now generating revenue that can be used for other campground improvements, Moore said.

Moore purchased seven more cabins from Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas in November and they’re already booked through the end of September, he said.

“Virtually everywhere they are installed, ‘park model’ cabins open up new business for parks and help get more out enjoying America’s great outdoors,” said Bill Garpow, RPTIA executive director. The Newnan, Ga.-based trade association represents the park model industry.

Garpow added that state, federal and local units of government are increasingly discovering what private campground owners have known for years — that rental units can open up new markets, strengthen their business base and generate revenue that can be used for other campground improvements.

Consider what’s happening in California.

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve near San Diego installed 10 park model cabins earlier this year, including seven on the lakeshore and three floating park models that people can use like a houseboat.

“They are already 93% booked for the next six months,” said Melissa McChesney, a public information officer for Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which operates the 300-site campground.

McChesney said the campground is self-funded by user fees, and that the cabins pay for themselves at 50% occupancy, so the fact that they are full most of the time means the cabins are generating revenue that can be used for other campground improvements that enhance the guest experience. Lakefront cabins start at $100 and go up to $145 for floating park model cabins.

In Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park recently installed 20 park model cabins manufactured by Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries. And, while the cabins weren’t available until Memorial Day weekend, they’re already 80% booked for the summer, according to Karen Haner, the park’s chief of interpretation and education, adding that prices range from $57 to $81 per night.

She added that Lassen purchased the units after seeing the positive experience that neighboring McArthur-Burney Falls State Park had with its park model rental cabins, which are located within walking distance of a 129-foot waterfall.

Lassen’s park model cabins are rustic sleeping accommodations that are equipped with propane heaters. Guests have access to central restroom and shower facilities and store their food in bear-proof lockers. They can rent cook stoves and lanterns and the cabins are available with different bed configurations to accommodate different size groups.

Meanwhile, Riverside County recently installed six park model cabins at Rancho Jurupa Park in Riverside, Calif. The units, manufactured by Western Home’s Silvercrest factory in Corona, are already getting booked as far out as August and September.

“I could see having a handful of units at every park,” said Scott Bangle said, general manager of Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District, adding that he sees park model cabins being part of the county’s inventory at all of its major regional parks someday.

“We did a feasibility study and a master plan, and one of the features that was called out was cabins for folks who want to get outdoors and have a nice recreational experience, but don’t have a camping unit themselves,” he said.

For more information on the park model cabins, please contact Bill Garpow at the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association at (770) 251-2672 and visit www.rptia.com.

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