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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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Florida ARVC ’12 Convention Gets Under Way

May 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds raised more than $16,000 in its annual fundraising auction Wednesday (May 9) night, which took place during the half-way point of the association’s 2012 Conference and Expo.

Proceeds from the auction will be used to pay for the association’s scholarship fund and educational programs, said Bobby Cornwell, executive director of Florida ARVC, which is holding its annual conference at the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.

According to a press release, about 70 representatives from 42 parks in Florida, Alabama and South Carolina were participating in the event along with representatives from 28 companies that provide products and services to the campground industry.

Wednesday’s activities included Florida ARVC’s annual business meeting and an election of board members and officers. Officers selected for one-year terms include Chairman Pat O’Neill of Camping on the Gulf in Destin; Vice Chairman Tim Deputy of Sun-N-Fun RV Resort in Sarasota; Treasurer Chris Long of the Central Park of Haines City; Secretary Don Hilgeman of Lake Waldena Resort in Silver Springs; with Bob Little of Flamingo Lake RV Resort in Jacksonville as immediate past chairman.

Board members elected to three-year terms included O’Neill of Camping on the Gulf, representing the northwest; Ed Schneider of Ocean Grove RV Resort in St. Augustine Beach, representing the northeast; John Parkhurst of Holiday Travel Resort in Orlando, representing the central region; and Carl Ludecke of Olde Mill Stream RV Resort in Umatilla, who will serve as an at-large representative from the central east area. Ray Seigneurie of Newby Management was also elected as a representative for Florida’s southeast region.

Silvana Clark provided an entertaining keynote presentation highlighting some of the things campground owners can learn from reality TV shows, while Jeff Crider, ARVC’s publicist, provided a seminar on how to get your park into the news. An exhibitor reception and trade show also took place in late afternoon.

Jeff Sims, who heads up ARVC’s state relations and program advocacy, served as the auctioneer for Wednesday night’s auction, which took place before a dinner and live music on the top floor of the Shores Resort & Spa.

Today’s activities include a morning tradeshow and several educational seminars, including “Managing the Millennials as Employees,” by Silvana Clark; an update on federal labor laws in Florida, by William Richardson, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Labor; and a presentation by John Barron of GravityFree titled “Making sense of Internet marketing.” A conference luncheon was also scheduled with group discussions, a legislative update and question and answer session.

Based in Tallahassee, the Florida ARVC represents 380 parks in Florida and 18 in Alabama.

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Florida’s State Park Proposal Draws New Fire

June 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A controversial proposal to let private contractors build and operate campgrounds at Florida state parks is drawing fire from fresh quarters this week reported the St. Petersburg Times.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-Port Richey, sent letters Tuesday to both Gov. Rick Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard expressing his “adamant opposition.”

He said the DEP should halt its plan until the Legislature can study the proposal, noting that “allowing a for-profit enterprise to run a high-impact campground on such a sensitive and important environmental treasure as Honeymoon Island is a major policy change that needs more review than it has been given.”

And officials from the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC) met with the head of the Florida Park Service to share their concerns. The 380-member association is also opposed to the DEP’s plan.

“It’s something we oppose because of the negative effects it could have on private businesses,” said Bobby Cornwell, the association’s executive director.

A lot of privately owned RV campgrounds are near state parks, Cornwell explained, and because of the economy demand is down. Putting new campgrounds, including spaces for RVs, into those state parks will hurt those private campgrounds, he said.

“The camping facilities are not needed,” he said. “We don’t need the state stepping in where they don’t belong.”

Critics of the Honeymoon Island plan are already organizing a large turnout for the July 5 public hearing at the Dunedin Public Library, which starts at 7 p.m.

Honeymoon Island, which could get up to 45 campsites on 17.5 acres east of the southern beach parking lot, is one of 56 state parks where DEP officials say they may allow private companies to build new camp sites.

About two-thirds of Florida’s 160 award-winning state parks have no camping. The 53 state parks that do allow camping offer 3,501 family campsites, and they are usually booked solid, according to the DEP. More than 2 million people camped in state parks last year, generating more than $15.5 million for the DEP — but the state wants to boost those revenues even higher.

Such groups as Audubon of Florida and the Florida Native Plant Society have already criticized the plan, especially the part about turning over the job of designing, building and operating the campgrounds to a private contractor.

Fasano said he too had concerns about that aspect of the plan because private contractors may not care as much about a park as park rangers and biologists do, “especially if their prime goal is to make money running a campground that caters primarily to high-impact camping.”

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