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Public/Private Parks Examining Relationships

April 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an in-depth article in Woodall’s Campground Management assessing the relationship between public and private parks. To read the entire article click here.

Even without an organized effort to get along, pure economics may end up leveling the playing field between the public parks and private parks.

So surmises Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

With most states under budgetary pressures, rather than subsidize their state park and campground budgets with tax revenue, Sims says, “a lot of parks and campgrounds are generating their own revenue and becoming more in line with the market.”

A look around the states yields various findings.

CONY Proposes that Privates Run State Facilities

In New York, where the private campground industry operates between 45,000 and 50,000 campsites and the state operates about 15,000 sites, the privates have suggested the cash-strapped Empire State turn over operation of state-run campgrounds, which currently undercut the private operators, to concessioners.

Donald Bennett Jr., president and CEO of Campground Owners of New York (CONY), floated the proposal during testimony to a State Assembly committee on tourism, the arts, state parks and sports development on Jan. 15.

The plan would create a more level playing field in New York because in order to cover items such as wages, taxes, insurance and utilities, the rates at public parks would have to rise accordingly, Bennett said.

“If the burden were put on someone else, the state could take the money to subsidize camping and put it toward capital improvement projects,” he noted.

Scandal Further Clouds CalARVC Stance

The relationship between California state parks and the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) is “non-existent,” says CalARVC Executive Director Debbie Sipe.

“We were developing a relationship until the mess at California state parks last year,” she explained. The “mess” was the threat to close 70 state parks due to budget woes and then the discovery of an uncovered hidden slush fund, which led to the resignation of Director Ruth Coleman. Many non-profits then decided to pull their funding support for state parks.

Coleman served under “2 ½ governors (administrations), even through change of parties, which showed what a good job she was doing at state parks, theoretically,” Sipe recalled.

In December, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a retired Marine general, Anthony Jackson, to replace Coleman.

Jackson, a veteran RVer, now spends time each week in the field, visiting state parks in his RV.

Communications Improve In the Sunshine State

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott created a bru-ha-ha in 2011 when his state park director, Donald Forgione, proposed bringing concessionaire-operated, RV-friendly campgrounds to Honeymoon Island State Park. After a massive public outcry, which included opposition from the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, Scott dropped the plan.

At the time, Florida ARVC Executive Director Bobby Cornwell told WCM he was uncertain how the ill-fated plan would affect future relations between his association and the state. “I hope we still have an open relationship and work together when we can. Hopefully, it will be status quo and we can co-exist.”

Since 2011, that relationship has improved for the better, Cornwell said.

“Communications between Florida ARVC and the State Park Director, Donald Forgione, have increased, and Mr. Forgione seems to be understanding of our concerns regarding the unfair competition issue,” Cornwell toldWCM. “We try to meet on a regular basis to stay in-touch and to discuss any concerns or issues we may have. At times we may have differing positions, but at least communications are open and I believe there is more of an awareness now how the actions of government may have unintended consequences by negatively affecting the private sector.

To read the entire article click here.

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CONY Exposition is Well Attended, ‘Informative’

November 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Donald Bennett Jr., president and CEO of Campground Owners of New York (CONY), reports the association held a successful and informative 49th annual Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry. The event was held Nov. 1-3 at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, N.Y.

According to a press release, attendees represented 65 campgrounds from across New York State, with several being first-time attendees as new park operators or representing parks in development.

According to Bennett in a CONY news release, the exposition, which also featured a trade show, was jammed with many timely educational seminars and presentations. “We really covered a lot of ground in terms of topics of interest to CONY park owners, managers and staff, ranging from CPR certification to campground accounting, to tips on influencing legislators,” notes Bennett. “Some sessions were so engaging for our members, they ran over time with questions from attendees.”

One of the most highly anticipated and informative events was a general session given by Bill Botten of the U.S. Access Board, regarding the Architectural Barriers Act and Accessibilities Guidelines, as advocated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CONY also unveiled a new session entitled, “CONY 101.” Bennett and CONY board chairman Mike Papp introduced to new, prospective and long-term members to everything they need to know about interacting with CONY and getting the most out of their membership. Topics included organization history, structure and mission, as well as CONY’s services and benefits programs and marketing opportunities.

In addition, the slate of officers and directors for the 2012-2013 year were elected and sworn in during the annual membership meeting on Nov. 3. Gregg Nicholls of Lake Bluff Campground moves up from third vice chairman to second vice chairman. Rob Kaiser of Medina/Wildwood Lake KOA moves up from Region 2 director to third vice chairman. Nina Latello of Sleepy Hollow Lake Campground takes over as Region 2 director.

Laurie Bulluck of Rainbow Shows Campsites & Motel steps down from her position as second vice chairwoman on the CONY board of directors.

Honored during the awards banquet were:

  • Janine Paddock, Deer River Campsites: Janine was the 15th member inducted into the CONY Hall of Fame.
  • Laurie Bulluck, Rainbow Shores Campsites & Motel: Recipient of the Chairman’s Award for dedicated service to CONY and its mission.
  • Matt Anderson, Camp Chautauqua: Honored for his leadership in organizing the Camp Good Days fundraiser, and for his campground’s efforts to raise $11,400 for the charity.
  • Copake KOA: CONY marketing award winner for best website design.
  • Lake George RV Park: CONY marketing award for best simple brochure.
  • Rainbow Shows Campsites & Motel: CONY marketing award for best mailer piece.
  • New York State Senator Elizabeth “Betty” Little: Recognized with a plaque for her friendship and championship of the outdoor hospitality industry in her role as a legislator. Senator Little is chairperson of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation committee for the NYS Senate.
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CONY Parks Donate $42K to ‘Camp Good Days’

November 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Campground Owners of New York (CONY) announced that it has raised $42,416.25 for Camp Good Days and Special Times, a New York State-based organization providing camping experiences to children with cancer. CONY revealed the tally at a special ceremony on Saturday (Nov. 3) during its 49th Annual Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry, held at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park in Queenbury, N.Y., according to a news release. Using a special oversized check, CONY unveiled the donation amount to James McCauley, PAVE director for Camp Good Days, who was on hand at the event representing his organization. Shown in the photo are (L-R) Gary Mervis, chairman and founder of Camp Good Days; Matt Anderson, CONY Region 1 director, Camp Chautauqua; James McCauley, Jr., Camp Good Days PAVE director; and Don Bennett Jr., CONY president and CEO. By the time of the ceremony, CONY had received a little over $33,000 from donations raised by member campgrounds during the summer camping season. Following the exposition, additional funds were submitted, increasing the donation by thousands of dollars, and bringing the total to $42,416.25, an amount exceeding all expectations for this first-ever CONY fundraiser. “It was simply overwhelming to be with these wonderful people!” said McCauley. “The fact that this organization was able to raise that amount of money, in such a short amount of time is just fantastic and very much appreciated.” Representatives of CONY visited the Rochester, N.Y.-based Camp Good Days office on Nov. 7 to present the additional checks to Camp Good Days Chairman and Founder Gary Mervis. 

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CONY Exposition Offers Full Slate of Activities

September 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Campground Owners of New York (CONY) will host its 49th Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry, Nov. 1-3, at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park, Lake George, N.Y.

According to a press release, attendees invited include campground operators, managers and staff, as well as people buying, selling or developing campgrounds and RV parks. The exposition will feature professional development seminars, a trade show and awards banquet.

“We’ve always had great themes and activities for CONY’s annual expositions, but this one is going to be especially fun for everyone – adults and kids – with the indoor water park at the lodge, a tailgate party featuring steak and lobster dinner and entertainment, and also contests, raffles, and possibly a few other entertaining surprises,” said exposition committee chairperson Rosemary Curtis.

A host of informative seminars and special sessions will comprise the professional development and educational component of the exposition. Topics include:

• CPR certification with Tom Wolfe of Niagara Woodland.

• ADA and pools with Bill Botten of the U.S. Access Board.

• CONY 101 – Everything you need to know about interacting with CONY and getting the most out of your membership, with Mike Papp, CONY chairman, and Donald Bennett Jr., CONY president and CEO.

• How to influence your local legislators, with Peter O’Connell.

• Securing your campground, with Tony Chillemi from Ber-National Controls

• Accounting for campgrounds with Quickbooks, with Ed Marden of Campbell Campground.

• Camping for the fun of it; finding out how to build a “wow” factor into your park, with Bud Stuyer, owner of multiple campgrounds.

• Filling your campground in the shoulder season, with Lori Stevenson, President of the Campground Association Management Professional group and Executive Director of the Wisconsin Assoc. of Campground Owners.

• Playing the game of user review sites, with Doug Motel of Site Optimized.

Other presenters include renowned marketing and project coach Doug Motel, and marketing professional Clyde Taylor, of Taylor Communications.

In addition, CONY will honor Past President Janine Paddock of Deer River Campsite in Malone with induction into the CONY Hall of Fame. The induction will take place during CONY’s annual awards banquet on Nov. 3.

For more details, including schedule, attendee/exhibitor registration forms, and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) booklet, contact the CONY office at (585) 586-4360, or info@nycampgrounds.com.

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CONY Members Raise Funds for Cancer Camp

June 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Campground Owners of New York (CONY), a trade association of privately owned campgrounds in New York State, has initiated its first-ever association-wide fundraiser benefiting Camp Good Days and Special Times, a New York state-based organization providing camping experiences to children with cancer.

Member campgrounds and RV Parks across New York are participating in this fundraiser. All proceeds raised by CONY will be donated directly to Camp Good Days and Special Times at a ceremony to be held at CONY’s annual Exposition and Trade Show in November.

According to CONY’s Marketing & Communications Director Suzanne Bixby, CONY members are raising funds in a variety of ways.

“All through the summer camping season, CONY campgrounds and RV parks are displaying change-collection jars, selling t-shirts and paper balloons, and hosting fundraising events such as raffles, dances, barbeques, walks, and more,” Bixby said. “We think this is going to be a positive kickoff to an annual charitable activity by CONY, and we’re pleased to start our good works by helping a great New York state-based charity like Camp Good Days.”

For more information about CONY’s summer fundraiser efforts for Camp Good Days and Special Times, contact the CONY office at (585) 586-4360 or info@nycampgrounds.com. For more information about Camp Good Days and Special Times, go to www.campgooddays.org.

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CONY’s Zone Meetings Connect with Members

April 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Campground Owners of New York (CONY) reports that its staff and board of directors hosted 91 campgrounds and 25 vendors at informative single-day zone meetings and trade shows held March 27-30 in Queensbury, Kingston, Liverpool and Batavia, N.Y.

According to a report by Woodalls Campground Management, topics discussed ranged from Justice Department rulings on pool accessibility for the handicapped, to survey data, legislative issues, and summer marketing programs, according to a news release.

Clyde Taylor, president of Taylor Communications, served as keynote speaker at each meeting, with an address titled, “What If?…Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs. They Can Guide Your Future Thinking.” Taylor’s presentation took a very candid look at the outdoor hospitality industry – specifically camping and RV parks in New York state – from an entrepreneur’s viewpoint, focusing on “what’s coming” in our industry and what owners, operators and managers should be doing to address both the opportunities and the challenges that lay ahead.

After each meeting, attendees could apply to be a part of a case study of campground business operations Taylor will conduct this summer, with results to be revealed later this year. Interest was high, and eight different operations will be selected to participate in the case study.

Mike Papp, CONY board president and owner of West Canada Creek Campsites in Poland, N.Y., noted, “Clyde has really challenged us to step up our game. We are not ‘just’ a campground, we are an entrepreneurial business that generates a great deal of revenue and provides opportunities for other businesses in the areas where we’re located. (Taylor’s) presentation was inspiring and his new micro-focused case study should give us very exciting insights into our industry.”

Of particular interest to attendees at the zone meetings was the recent action by the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued a 60-day stay on the enforcement of new regulations regarding handicapped accessibility to pools and spas, while it collects more public comment on the issues of ramps and lifts. The regulations were implemented in 2010 as part of changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which require pools have two accessible means of entry (such as a ramp or lift) and that spas have lift systems for use by handicapped persons.

To read the entire article click here.

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CONY Joins June Get Outdoors Month Promo

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CONY logoCampgrounds affiliated with Campground Owners of New York (CONY) are doing their part to support Great Outdoors Month by offering fun family activities as well as significant camping discounts during the month of June.

“Camping is not only the most affordable vacation option, but it supports a healthy lifestyle, particularly when you consider the great variety of outdoor activities that are available at campgrounds across our state,” Don Bennett, CONY president and CEO, stated in a news release.GCAOnlineBannerAd1_300x250

New York campgrounds will be participating in GoCampingAmerica.com’s Great Outdoors Month promotion, which involves 20% discounts on camping June 1-25 at participating parks.

GoCampingAmerica.com will also provide e-coupons that consumers can use to obtain discounts at Camping World stores and RV rentals booked through El Monte RV, which has agreed to provide 500 free miles plus 50 free miles a day to GoCampingAmerica visitors who rent an RV for at least one week during the June 1-25 period. The e-coupons will be posted on GoCampingAmerica.com on May 15.

Twenty-five New York campgrounds are also offering a “buy two, get one night free” promotion through Oct. 10. Visit www.ilovenycamping.com for more information.

Meanwhile, 15 New York campgrounds are planning special outdoor activities in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day on June 11.

“While June is Great Outdoors Month, June 11 is Get Outdoors Day, and campgrounds across New York are offering numerous activities, from nature walks to scavenger hunts and geocaching events,” said Bennett.

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Northeast Campgrounds Report Successes

April 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Marking its 45th year of operation, the Northeast Campground Association (NCA) drew a strong member contingent as it hosted the annual Northeast Conference on Camping and Trade Show March 19-21 in Springfield, Mass. 

Executives for the Stafford, Conn.-based organization reported that attendance at the event, held for the first time at the Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, showed a slight increase over last year. NCA is comprised of associations representing 11 states throughout the Northeast region. 

“Our numbers were solid,” said Cyndy Zbierski, NCA conference coordinator. “We were up from last year, which was our goal, especially after hearing that some of the other shows were down around 40%.” 

According to Zbierski, attendees expressed a “cautious optimism” for prospects in 2009 as the industry faces the ongoing challenges of a contracted economy. “The overall mood seemed to be that this season would be as good or better than last year,” she said. 

Other comments included: 

  •  “We are optimistic it’s going to be a good year,” Randy Packard, owner of Pine Acres Family Resort in Oakham, Mass., told RVBusiness. “It may not be a banner year, but the year-to-date reservations are exceeding 2008 at this point. “The other side is that our ancillary sales could be flat, or maybe even down a little, because people are cutting back on spending.” 
  • Donald G. Bennett Jr., executive administrator for the Campground Owners of New York (CONY), noted, “I think the reason for optimism is that camping offers two things – it’s a family activity and it’s affordable. Camping is the perfect way to get the family together again and, for a weekend, it’s not that much more expensive than staying at home. I think the theme for our industry is family.” 
  •  “I believe we’ll probably be at last year’s levels – maybe down 5% in terms of occupancy,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), who led one of most highly attended seminar sessions. “But in the scheme of things, that’s not bad compared to hotels and motels. Our sector of the travel and tourism industry is going to hold up OK. People are still going to want to travel.” 

An overriding theme during the board meeting, and throughout the conference, was the emergence of rental units as an option for people that didn’t own RVs or were not interested in tent camping. It targets the growing trend among consumers to economize by traveling closer to home and for shorter periods of time. 

“My premium cabins are my biggest seller right now,” said Packard. “That’s a 40-foot unit, air-conditioned, with a full-house kitchen and screened porch located on beautiful sites. They rent for $1,500 a week, which is cheap compared to other vacations, and people can come and have a great vacation.” 

“Destination parks are doing fine,” noted Profaizer. “We are seeing people camping now Thursday through Monday – maybe a little longer weekend than in the past. They may not be camping as many weekends, but they are spending longer weekends in one spot. One factor may be that some people are without jobs.” 

“Rentals are going extremely quickly this year,” said Marcia Galvin, human resources director for the 450-site Normandy Farms Campground, Foxboro, Mass., who also conducted a seminar on motivating employees and being a good leader. “You are seeing a lot more families who aren’t accustomed to RVing, but they are looking to find an affordable vacation with their families. We have cabins and yurts, and those are very popular.” 

Zbierski noted that the trend was particularly beneficial to NCA member groups due to the close proximity of the northeastern states. “If people travel in a 200-mile radius, it’s possible they could be in several different states,” she said.

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