Upscale Park Models, Cottages Attract Campers
Frederic Lepitre and wife Chantal Theriault rented a condo when taking their first family vacation in Florida several years ago.
According to a report from the Fort Myers News-Press, it was comfortable, but not the ideal environment for the couple’s four active offspring, he said.
This week, the family from Quebec is ensconced in a 12-foot-by-33-foot park model trailer at the Naples/Marco KOA. It rents for $145 a night this time of year, and boasts a flat-screen TV, full kitchen, bunk beds — and separate master bedroom.
“Nobody wants to do primitive anymore,” said Ted Mangels, manager of the KOA off State Road 951, east of Marco Island.
The campground setting, with its swimming pool, shuffleboard and bicycle rentals makes it easier for Lepitre’s children, ages 13 to 17, to play outside.
“We don’t want to pull an RV here all the way from Canada,” Lepitre said. “That’s a 27- to 28-hour drive. And, it’s really good to have a cabin with a full bathroom.”
Like Lepitre and family, more people are spending weekends holidays and vacations in campgrounds. And, because not all guests own RVs or care to rough it in a tent, many commercial campgrounds are responding by purchasing and installing cabins and cottages with all the comforts of home.
More than one-third of the nation’s privately owned campgrounds offer upscale rental accommodations, according to Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
The trend includes independently owned campgrounds and some of the biggest chains in the country, including the Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America.
In south Lee County, the San Carlos RV Park stretching along Hurricane Bay has eight one- to three-bedroom manufactured homes available for rent. It used to have 19, “but we traded them out for big-rig sites,” said Carolyn Morrissette, who owns the park with her brother, Dave Kline. Those big rigs mainly are 40- to 45-foot-long motor homes that campers bring in for their stays.
For campgrounds in Florida, park model cabins are a win-win, according to Garpow: First, they attract snowbirds and vacationers during camping’s high season from December through mid-April.
And, when the weather gets hotter and more rainy, these cabins “extend the camping season into the summer, when Florida families go on weekend getaways,” said Garpow, a former Tampa resident who now lives in Georgia.
A growing number of seasonal Florida residents also are buying park model trailers to install on property they rent or purchase from an RV resort or campground.
Retail prices range from about $25,000 to $60,000, with an average in the mid-$40,000s, Garpow said.
A recreational park trailer with wheels is considered an RV if its area is less than 400 square feet. However, in Florida, bigger models are permissible in campgrounds if they are built to current hurricane wind codes, said Joe Follman, Ocala-based sales manager for Chariot Eagle Inc., a maker of park model homes.
Said Follman: “We’re seeing growth all over the state.”