Eldredge H. “El” Welton, a pioneer in the California RV industry and a founder of the California Travel Parks Association, now California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), died July 10 at the age of 95.
Welton opened his family-owned RV park, Orangeland, in the city of Orange in 1972. Today, the park is one of the foremost parks in California and the nation, having been recognized in both 2000 and 2002 as ARVC Park of the Year, according to CalARVC’s e-newsletter, “Wednesday Morning Coffee Talk & Updates.”
At the opening of his park, Welton joined the Recreation Vehicle Park Association of California, one of several small associations in the fledgling industry. It soon became apparent to Welton and others that the competition among the several smaller existing California associations precluded their effectiveness in serving this growing industry.
Familiar with the Western Mobilehome Association (WMA) from his 14 years as owner of a mobile home park, Welton and associate Vi Goodsell of Anaheim Vacation Park recommended that RV park owners consider joining the RV Park division of WMA. Welton and others reached an agreement with the WMA, and the RV Division of WMA began to unify RV Parks within the state. Welton began a short tenure as a WMA director.
WMA however, was not familiar with the needs of the fast growing RV industry – they failed to realize, for instance, the value of publishing a directory of parks. On his own initiative, Welton published a small directory of approximately 15 California RV parks using WMA RV Division funds to defray the cost.
RV park owners soon realized that WMA could not adequately support RV parks’ interest, and at a meeting of the WMA RV Park Division, RV park owners concluded that their interests could best be served by establishing their own association. Welton was dispatched to notify WMA, and subsequently Welton, Dick Crowl and Dave Hodgin began a statewide needs assessment as a first step to forming a new state association.
Welton, Crowl and Hodgin agreed upon the name California Travel Parks Association. Bylaws were written, Welton retained a graphic artist to produce a logo and CTPA was born. At the first general convention in 1974, Hodgin was elected president, Crowl first vice president and Welton second vice president.
In 1979, Welton became CTPA’s fourth president, having spent the years since the association’s inception recruiting new members, nurturing the organization and upgrading CTPA’s camping directory.
Welton is survived by his wife of 71 years, Virginia; daughter, Cynthia Wimbish of Huntington Beach; son, Dr. Stephen T. Welton of Sikeston, Mo.; and his daughter, Janis Beghtol of Orange; eight grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.