The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently soliciting public comment about how the state could enhance outdoor recreation.
As reported by WUVM, Milwaukee Public Radio, several activities are becoming more popular, including camping in recreational vehicles. The state already plans to upgrade electrical service at hundreds of campsites starting this fall, because fewer than 30% have adequate hook-ups.
Several RV dealers say sales of recreational vehicles have also been climbing – a possible sign of economic recovery.
Tim Wegge, owner of Burlington RV, Sturtevant, noted that the larger motorhomes are not huge sellers right now.
“You’ve got a segment of the market, the older retirees, that this economy has scared into just taking what they have and holding it tight. They’ve got a wait and see attitude,” Wegge says.
On the other hand, sales of RV trailers are humming. Wegge says more people are looking for an affordable alternative to pricey hotels.
“We saw a tremendous downturn in 2008 and 2009, but things stabilized in 2010 and 2011,” he said. “And, now we’re seeing some nice growth, particularly in the towable market.”
In Menomonee Falls, Gary Roskopf of Roskopf’s RV has been experiencing the same: increased customer interest in towables.
“This is a mid-size trailer, it’s 28 feet long,” he said. “You might say to me, ‘that looks kind of big,’ but in today’s day and age, this would be mid-sized – queen bed in the front, double bed in the back with a bunk on the top. This will sleep a good seven, eight people in it and pricewise, you’re going to be under $18,000 brand new.”
Roskopf says other popular RVs are those with showers, air conditioning and one or more slide-outs.
“The side of the trailer expands,” he said. “It’s a box area that expands into the trailer for travel and expands out of the trailer when you get to the site. It really has changed this industry.”
Todd Hill and his family from Ixonia are sizing up a unit at Roskopf’s.
“We’ve been camping for many, many years and we’re looking for something that has slideouts on it to add a little extra room in the kids bedroom and then have the couch and dinette and stuff open up in the kitchen so you can walk around through there a little bit more,” Hill says.
Repeat customers – those who trade up – are important to Roskopf. He says some customers intend to park their RVs at a permanent site, while others will tow them to national and state parks.
Wisconsin wants to capitalize on the growing demand for all types of campsites. In addition to adding electric hookups, the DNR’s Dan Schuler says the state recently opened a new campground at Harrington Beach State Park near Milwaukee
“They’re staying closer to home a little bit, I think from an affordability standpoint,” Schulre said. “But, I also think it’s somewhat time constraints. We’re not seeing an uptick in the week long or two week long vacations. But we absolutely have seen an uptick in two to three day stays, particularly in the fall season.”
The DNR estimates there are roughly 18 million potential campers in Wisconsin and adjacent states. If fuel prices remain stable and consumer confidence grows, local RV dealers expect more to opt for towing an RV to their outdoor getaway.