Representatives from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its affiliates made a show of force in Washington, D.C., last week, holding 80 face-to-face meetings with members of the U.S. House and Senate to voice industry concern over recent changes proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its ADA pool lift guidance released on Jan. 31.
According to a press release, ARVC’s objective was to continue to “hammer home” the outdoor hospitality industry’s opposition to recently proposed federal guidelines that would require public accommodations, including campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, to install fixed, permanent pool lifts at every body of water on commercial property.
While ARVC supports the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the association has called on the Justice Department to change its proposed guidelines to make it possible for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts to meet the latest ADA requirements with portable pool lifts, which ARVC contends are equally accessible to the public, but would not create a safety hazard for children who will be attracted to the apparatus.
ARVC and its affiliates have also endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., that would extend the compliance deadline for one year while also allowing portable pool lifts to meet the new ADA pool lift requirements.
The Justice Department is expected to announce this week if it has reached a decision on whether it will allow private parks, hotels and other hospitality businesses to accommodate disabled people with portable pool lifts or whether it needs more time to study the issue. The Justice Department previously issued a 60-day delay in enforcing its proposed pool lift requirements in response to a coordinated lobbying effort by ARVC and its coalition partners in the hospitality industry.
“Last week’s meetings represent the continuing pressure we are bringing to bear on the ADA pool lift issue, which has already succeeded in prompting the Justice Department to postpone the implementation timeline of new regulations while it considers possible changes to ADA pool lift requirements,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO.
Those efforts have included letter-writing campaigns; a visit to the White House at the invitation of the administration to discuss the issue; an official written comment to the Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that expired April 4, 2012; as well as coordinated lobbying by ARVC and its partners in the hotel industry, which include such notables as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Water Park Association.
Congressional representatives have also sent letters to top Justice Department officials in response to the outreach by the campground and hotel industries.
Recently, Congressman, Bill Owens, D-N.Y., who met last week with fellow New Yorker and member of the ARVC Board of Directors, Truman Hartshorn, sent a letter to Allison Nichol, chief of the Justice Department’s Disability Rights Section, criticizing the burden that the department has placed on small businesses. “Your office’s total inflexibility to consider alternatives, such as a portable lift, demonstrates that this rule was poorly crafted and did not meaningfully incorporate any ideas or suggestions from the industries that will be affected,” Owens wrote. “I suggest you delay implementation of this rule and work with all the parties affected to come up with a more practical solution.”
Campground industry representatives also attending last week’s meetings included ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter of Leisure Systems, Inc.; ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei; ARVC Government Affairs Committee Chairman Al Johnson of Recreational Adventures Company, a Hill City, S.D. company that owns and operates multiple KOA campgrounds; Debbie Sipe of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds; Kathy Frederick and Sandra Brown of the Connecticut Campground Owners Association; Rick Abare of the Maine Campground Owners Association; Norman Gurevich of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds; Tracie Fisher of ARVC Michigan; Gregg Pittman of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association; Joann DelVechio and Jay Sporl, Sr. of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association; Todd Kaser and Chip Hanawalt of the Ohio Campground Owners Association; Jim Breneman of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association; Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group; Lori Severson of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners; Marcia Galvin of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners; and Jon Heidrich of Shangri-La RV Resort in Yuma, Ariz.