The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) is surveying its 45 members on their opinion about reuniting with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
Votes will be tallied the end of the month and the RPTIA board will go from there, RPTIA Executive Director William Garpow told Woodall’s Campground Management.
An affirmative vote would put the RPTIA into a state of suspension dependent upon subsequent actions by the RPTIA and RVIA boards, Garpow said.
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The RV/MH Hall of Fame continues to open its doors every day, playing host to the streams of RVers eager to view the industry’s past and present depicted in the array of eye-catching and instructive displays.
That in itself is an accomplishment, says Tom McNulty, who took the reins as executive director of the financially strapped museum around eight months ago. “When I first came on board, there were people that were saying we wouldn’t last two months,” he said. “But we’re still here, and our hope is we’ll be here for the long run.
“There are some good things happening and actually our cash flow is better than it’s been in a couple of years. Attendance during the summer was 100 to 150 people a day and we are seeing greater returns from our convention center.”
McNulty is by no means trying to mask the financial quandary that fostered those doomsday predictions. The hall, which officially opened in March of 2007 on the northeast side of Elkhart, Ind., continues to run in the red, exacerbated by the country’s economic collapse and a resulting accumulation of debt that came to a head in the past year.
“We are still in the throes of negotiating our debt,” McNulty said. “At times we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but then someone turns off the switch. It’s very frustrating to say the least.”
Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and chairman for the Hall of Fame, added, “Because of the economy, it’s been very difficult over the past four years to raise the types of funds that we need to meet our obligations.”
Three sources in particular are holding the bulk of outstanding bills:
• First Source Bank, which established a $900,000 line of credit for the hall.
• Historian David Woodworth, who sold a portion of his prized RV collection to the hall for $750,000.
• The family of deceased Teton Homes founder Boots Ingram, who made an interest bearing loan of $1.1 million to secure Woodworth’s collection and an interest-free, five-year $2 million loan for construction costs to house the vehicles.
“We negotiated those loans in an era when the economy, and the industry, was still strong,” Garpow said. “In hindsight, if we had been able to foresee how bad the economy would get, the board probably wouldn’t have accepted the funding.”
But Garpow says there is movement toward potentially resolving the hall’s debt. “I can’t be specific, but we are having an involved conversation with the Ingram family,” he said. “We sent a proposal and are expecting a response very quickly. Their answer will obviously dictate how we operate moving forward.”
There is also an ongoing discussion with the Go RVing Coalition, which has annually paid the hall $200,000 in return for the high-profile marketing services provided by the facility.
“The Go RVing Coalition honored its commitment through 2011,” said McNulty. “They made an offer for 2012, but we were disappointed. We are currently working with (RVIA President) Richard Coon, who has been very supportive, and are putting together a proposal as to why the commitment should be higher. I have every reason to believe it will be honored.”
Another source for optimism is the heightened marketing efforts for the hall’s convention center. Susan Weaver was brought on board in September to spearhead efforts and McNulty reported that there are substantial commitments on the books for the coming year.
“The conference center is much more active,” he said. “People are starting to find out just what a great facility we have for all sorts of events. I think having the RV Open House brought a lot of attention and the rest is primarily word of mouth. Looking ahead to 2012, we already have $100,000 in bookings.”
But perhaps the biggest boost for the hall would be a growing economy.
“There have been some signs that things are getting better,” Garpow noted. “The good news is that it’s hard to find anybody that doesn’t say we need the hall, that we need to support it, that it’s a good endeavor. That tells me that if people start feeling better about their situation, then our situation could also improve.”
The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) has begun a nationwide search for a new executive director, according to a report by Woodall’s Campground Management.
Current executive William “Bill” Garpow announced today (Nov. 30) that a tentative timeline for transition to retirement has been put in place. He said he will remain as executive director until a successor is hired and will help with training.
The RPTIA also may move its current office in Newnan, Ga., to Northern Indiana, where more than half of its members are based.
Garpow, 70, cited health reasons for his decision.
“As you may be aware, in late September I had extensive surgery performed at Wake Forest Medical Center that, thankfully, went very well. Though my doctors tell me that I can now consider myself as a 70-year-old cancer survivor, it was nonetheless a life-changing event that brought me to the realization that it was time for me to consider retirement,” he stated in an announcement.
“In talking with the RPTIA board regarding this change of my priorities, a tentative timeline for the transition was put in place. Plans are that I’ll continue as usual until the board retains its new director and then remain available to provide any needed training. In total, this process could take as much as two years,” he stated.
The salary will likely be close to six figures plus benefits to include a contribution toward health and life insurance as well as a possible matching funds retirement package, Garpow speculated, though not tying the RPTIA board to these terms.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that Garpow has been RPTIA’s only executive director. He has been an integral member of the manufactured housing and RV industries since the 1960s. Due to his health, he was unable to attend this week’s National RV Trade Show for the first time in 40 years.
RPTIA is a non-profit trade association whose members are the manufacturers, suppliers and service firms producing park trailers. The association also represents allied associations whose members primarily represent the retailers, RV parks or resorts in the United States. RPTIA exists to unite all recognized segments of the industry so they may, in consort, have effective influence upon matters of public interest involving the betterment of the industry. The association members produce 90% of the park trailers built in the U.S.
Upon joining RPTIA, manufacturers are required to sign a pledge that they will build park trailers that conform with the A119.5 Standard.
The RPTIA was formed as an off-shoot of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“Financially, RPTIA has a sound operating reserve and has made the necessary cuts to keep us in balance,” Garpow noted. “As such, we feel confident that the association will be able to operate until the economy improves even with the expected delays.”
The committee scheduled to meet on Jan. 11 will, in full confidence, review the résumes and proposals as part of the selection process, he said. At this meeting, they will choose three or four potential candidates for a subsequent face-to-face meeting. The final selection and resulting offer to the chosen candidate could be made in the spring.
Inquiries should be directed to Garpow at (770) 251-2672 or (770) 634-8500 (cell).
Park operators must not allow their recreational park trailers or ”park models” to be used as full-time residences. And they should also beware of the low-cost FEMA trailers, many of which have damage and mold problems in addition to failing to comply with established building codes.
Those were the two primary warnings issued Jan. 13 by Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), during CalARVC’s Education Day at Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort and Marina.
While Garpow had previously warned park operators not to allow their guests to use park trailers as full-time residences, he said the reminder is needed because the economic downturn has prompted some people who have lost their homes to relocate to campgrounds and RV parks — at least temporarily.
”The problem with it is that, in many cases, the local unit of government is aware of the hardship that is going on with regard to families and foreclosures and, as such, they may be inclined to ignore the improper use of a campground as a place of residence,” Garpow said.
Trouble is, when guests are allowed to establish a residence within a park, it can be very difficult to remove them. ”You’re setting yourself up to become a trailer camp if you allow people to live full-time at your park,” Garpow said.
Using RV or park model sites for full-time residents can also reduce the value of the park, while making it less appealing to transient RVers or destination campers looking for a true recreational vacation experience, Garpow said.
While long-term renters seeking a form of low-cost housing provide income stability, they don’t mix with transient travelers or participants in the RV lifestyle, Garpow said. Sometimes, he added, long-term renters can ”develop an attitude” toward visitors who are just passing through. This changes the very nature of the park and the true RV customers may seek another location.
”The only way I would even consider allowing full-time residency within a park would be if you worked with your city or county and had them pass an emergency housing ordinance that allowed you to use your park for this purpose,” Garpow said. ”But even then it should only be for a limited amount of time so that the local unit of government could also step in and help you move those people out after the housing emergency was over. I would also try to separate the two types of tenants, as they just don’t mix well.”
Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial that appeared in the Press of Atlantic City, N.J.
Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), (yes, there’s a national association for everything) wants to be perfectly clear:
He agrees that so-called “park model” campers, which are 400 square feet at their largest, are not designed to be year-round homes. And, in fact, New Jersey law clearly states that campgrounds cannot be full-time legal domiciles, says Garpow.
However, the current attempt by the state of New Jersey to allow people to use their park-model campers only six months of the year is arbitrary and foolish, says the head of the national association, which is based in Newnan, Ga. And he’s right. Why shouldn’t someone be able to enjoy their camper for a weekend in, say, late fall if they want to?
Furthermore, New Jersey is the only state in the nation to claim that the National Electric Code requires it to force campgrounds to close six months of the year because of the wiring in park-model campers. New Jersey, says Garpow, is “interpreting (the code) uniquely.”
There’s a surprise, huh?
Last year, the state Department of Community Affairs began imposing a six-month limit on how long campgrounds can be open; the six-month period starts on opening day of a particular campground.
The state says this is necessary because under the National Electric Code, the wiring in park models is not sufficient. Nonsense, say Garpow and others. They say the wiring, at least in newer models, is the same as in a single-family house.
So … what is the state up to?
Garpow says he isn’t sure. At best, the state is using a backhanded approach to ensure that campgrounds don’t become full-time, year-round residences for people — particularly, we suspect, for people who might send children to the local schools.
But the issue here is whether people who own park models should have access to them for weekend getaways or vacations whenever they want — or only when the state of New Jersey says they can.
The New Jersey Campground Owners Association, which is based in Middle Township, is fighting the new rules. A spokesman for the state Department of Community Affairs says it is willing to work with the association to come up with a reasonable solution.
May we suggest that the first step should be for the state to be honest about what it is hoping to accomplish and why?
If the issue is really campgrounds that morph into full-time residences more like trailer parks — and then, presumably, “overload” local services and schools without paying a “fair” share of taxes — then talk about that, rather than rely on some arbitrary and unique interpretation of the National Electric Code.