Private park associations in at least two states — New York and Missouri — have said “no” to a plan by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to offer free memberships for the remainder of this year to state parks.
The objections to ARVC’s plan surfaced in an informal survey conducted last week by Woodall’s Campground Management. Other states apparently are leaning against backing the plan as well.
Ironically, the associations in those two states are headed by men who sit on the ARVC board of directors.
ARVC’s Executive Committee and board of directors sanctioned the six-month trial membership offer to all non-members in early June. ARVC CEO Paul Bambei subsequently announced the ARVC plan.
“Times are changing, and we need to look to the public parks not as competitors, but as industry partners since we are typically viewed as one in the same by camping consumers and we also share many of the same marketing and government affairs objectives,” Bambei stated in a July 8 news release.
ARVC bylaws have permitted public park membership for many years, and while some states, such as Maine, California and Vermont, have aggressively pursued public park membership, the national association remained relatively quiet. In June, however, ARVC launched a mail campaign designed to attract non-members to the association by hailing its multiple benefits, and many have taken notice, ARVC noted in a news release.
“We’ve already received several inquiries from both non-member private parks as well as public parks that see the value of ARVC membership, and we plan to make ARVC membership available to them on a six-month trial basis,” Bambei said, adding that the offer has been warmly received by top representatives of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).
Opposition Surfaces Quickly
However, within weeks, private park owners in New York and Missouri expressed their disapproval of the plan.
During a conference call in the third week of July, the 19-member board of the Campground Owners of New York (CONY) voted not to honor the ARVC request, said Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY executive director. CONY’s bylaws do not allow for a state park to become a member in any class of membership, Bennett said.
Beyond that, from a practical standpoint, Bennett noted, the last half of the year is when many private state associations assemble their campground directories for the coming year. Any state park that would join for the second half of this year would be added to the printed directory for 2012 and would be in that directory all year, even if the park subsequently decided not to re-up for the coming year.
“It’s easy to put someone on a website and then take them off. Once they’re in a printed book, you can’t take that back,” he said.
Bennett surmises that, aside from conference calls, few state associations have had a chance to meet or poll their members on the ARVC plan.
In Missouri, the executive committee of the Missouri Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (MOARC) voted not to accept state and federal parks into their association.
“The MOARC board stands behind our mission statement to serve the special needs of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Missouri in order to provide the public with the highest quality camping experience,” Larry Helms, MOARVC president and owner of Boiling Springs Campground in Dixon, Mo., stated in an e-mail dated July 24 sent to Bambei and other ARVC officials.
“We support all private parks in Missouri and we believe MOARC can benefit the state more effectively by helping private parks improve and expand as privately owned businesses in the tourism industry.”
Many state associations don’t hold formal meetings during the summer months so a formal decision by many other states has yet to be made.
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