A memorial service will be held in September for Jack E. Denton, a longtime campground industry pioneer who helped establish Arizona’s first campground industry association as well as the national organization that later became the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Denton, 89, died Aug. 26 in Peoria, Ariz. after suffering from complications from a broken hip sustained earlier in the week, according to an ARVC press release. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Sept. 11, at the First United Methodist Church at 7102 N. 58th Drive in Glendale, Ariz.
“Jack was considered the ‘Father of our industry in Arizona,” said Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “He was truly a treasure that we all adored. Jack never missed any meetings or conventions. We could always count on him for support.”
Denton built the Flagstaff KOA in 1967, just five years after the founding of Kampgrounds of America Inc. The campground, located at an elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, is one of the oldest continuously owned KOAs in the 484-park system in North America.
Denton was a charter member of Arizona ARVC’s precursor, the Arizona Campground Owners Association, which he helped form in 1975. He served on the state organization’s board of directors for over 30 years.
Always active on political issues, he was instrumental in passing legislation to create a Scenic Byways program not only in Arizona, but across the U.S., Mickelson said. He was also a strong advocate for private parks as they struggled with competitive issues involving government run parks.
“He was on a first name basis with the Forest Service in Flagstaff and was always partnering with them for the benefit of campgrounds and RV parks in northern Arizona,” Mickelson said.
At the national level, Denton was a charter member of the National Campground Owners Association (NCOA), the precursor to today’s National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, and briefly served on the National Association’s board of directors, according to David Gorin, a former ARVC President who was hired by the national association in the late 1980s.
“He loved the industry,” Gorin said of Denton, adding that Denton was very involved in national issues in the 1970s and ’80s, when insurance companies were pulling out of the campground insurance business. Denton served on a national insurance trust set up by NCOA that helped identify and recruit companies to provide insurance to campground operators.
According to KOA, Denton held several leadership roles in the KOA Owners Association, and was an innovator and “early adopter” of many KOA practices and amenities. His Flagstaff campground showcased several green initiatives, including an on-site recycling program. Denton had recently installed wind turbines to offset energy use, and his park was designated as an Environmental Impact Education Park.
Denton is survived by his two children, Robin and Jerry, of Glendale, Ariz. Granddaughter, Jessica, as well as two nieces, Barbara Funkhauser and Barbara Burns, from New Mexico and his longtime friend, Mary Smith, who owned, KOA of Redding in Redding, Calif. He was preceded in death by his wife, Chris.
Reservations are up at several Arizona campgrounds and RV parks that cater to snowbirds, according to an informal survey of park operators across the Grand Canyon State by the Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Arizona ARVC).
“We think it’s going to be a pretty good season, certainly stronger than last year,” said Merlin Jones, Arizona ARVC president, adding that most parks are reporting higher winter advance reservation figures than they had last year at this time.
Several park operators have also invested in significant improvements this year, which Jones said should please their returning winter visitors as well as snowbirds who are visiting their parks for the first time.
Here’s a sampling of comments from private park operators in Arizona regarding their reservation levels, business projections and improvements they have made in preparation for the upcoming winter season:
- Desert’s Edge RV Village in Phoenix: Advance reservations through Jan. 1 are up 5% for 163 lower-tier sites and down 2% for the park’s 50 upper tier sites, said Saundra Bryn, the park’s managing partner. In terms of improvements, the park has invested about $55,000 in several upgrades this year, including new pool decking and new shade awnings in the pool area, a new universal weight machine for the fitness center, new landscaping, and plumbing improvements.
- Eagle View RV Resort in Fort McDowell: Advance winter reservations are up about 5% at this 150-site park compared to last year, said General Manager Merlin Jones, who also serves Arizona ARVC president. ”We have had fewer cancellations this year,” he said. “Last year at this time, we were getting phone calls and there were cancellations. This year, they’re still making reservations daily.” Meanwhile, the park has invested in several improvements this year, including a new $40,000 fitness center and a $13,000 dog park. The park has also created a new horseshoe pit.
- Mesa Spirit RV Resort in Mesa: Advance winter reservations are up slightly at this park compared to where they were at this time last year, said Jim Beach, general manager of National Mobile Development, which owns Mesa Spirit RV Resort. “Last season, we were a little bit worried because of the economy,” Beach said. “But once it got cold up north, the snowbirds came down in droves. This year we’re expecting a little bit better year.”
- Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande: Long-term winter reservations at this 1,862-site park are up 9.9% compared to last year at this time, said Wendell Johnson, Palm Creek’s general manager. “That translates into about 126 new reservations over last year,” Johnson said, adding that several factors that bode well for the upcoming winter season, including a stable Canadian dollar and “a pretty good rally” on the American stock market.
- Rincon Country RV Resort in Tucson: This resort, which has two locations in Tucson, anticipates a slight decline in its daily and weekly rentals this winter, but an increase in the number of RVers who spend several months at the park, said resort owner George O’Leary. Rincon County RV Resort has 1,140 sites, while its Rincon County East location has 460 sites. O’Leary said he has spent about $150,000 on road resurfacing at Rincon Country East this year.
- Shangri-La R.V. Resort in Yuma: This park’s advance winter reservations are consistent with last year’s figures, said Debbie Saunders, the park’s assistant manager, adding that the park is working to finish several improvements before the snowbirds arrive.
- Towerpoint RV Resort and Good Life RV Resort, both in Mesa: Advance winter reservations at these parks are up 15 to 17% compared to last year at this time, said Dan Martin, who serves as general manager of both properties. Cancellations are also down compared to last year’s figures. “Last year, we had 15 to 20 cancellations at each property” Martin said. ”We’ve probably had five or six cancellations at each property this year. I’m hoping that that’s an indication that things are good.”
In terms of improvements, about $300,000 has been in upgrades at both properties during the past year, including the remodeling of the health clubs at both Good Life and Towerpoint, resurfacing of tennis courts and pool hall at Towerpoint and the remodeling of the main hall at Good Life. Towerpoint has 1,112 sites, 74 percent of which are occupied by park models. Good Life has 1,156 sites, 72 percent of which are park models.