Solar-Powered Cavco Park Model ‘Kolony’ Ready

April 19, 2011 by · Comments Off on Solar-Powered Cavco Park Model ‘Kolony’ Ready 

Interior of the first solar-powered lodge, opened in May 2010 at Herkimer Diamond KOA in New York.

Interior of the first solar-powered lodge, opened in May 2010 at Herkimer Diamond KOA in New York.

With more than 40 inches of annual precipitation and three times as many cloudy days as sunny ones, upstate New York seems like the wrong place to determine the extent to which people can satisfy their energy needs with solar energy.

But Dr. Renee Scialdo Shevat argues that it’s actually an ideal place, since most of America has a similar climate. And she hopes to prove it with the energy production and consumption data she collects from the nation’s first “Solar Kolony,” which she is establishing this week at the Herkimer Diamond KOA campground in Hekimer, N.Y., according to a news release.

The “Solar Kolony” is a collection of three fully furnished “park model” cabins, which will be available for rent throughout the camping season. But unlike the “Kamping Lodges” that are available at other KOA campgrounds, Dr. Shevat’s units are powered exclusively by solar panels with a backup propane generator.

“We’re hoping to complete the installation of our ‘Solar Kolony’ in time for Earth Day on April 22,” Dr. Shevat said, adding that she is already receiving reservations from consumers who want to rent the environmentally friendly units.

Herkimer Diamond KOA installed its first solar powered park model cabin from Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries last May. But the unit was so popular with campers that Dr. Shevat decided to install two more of Cavco’s solar powered park models this month, thus creating the nation’s first “Solar Kolony.”

But while many consumers will be enticed by the novelty of spending the night in the nation’s first “Solar Kolony,” Dr. Shevat is eager to study the Kolony’s energy production and consumption data, which she plans to share with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The park models that Dr. Shevat purchased to create the Solar Kolony have been equipped with energy saving lighting and appliances. But no one knows, at this point, whether it’s more cost effective or green to use a propane generator to produce backup power to recharge the Kolony’s batteries or simply to tap into New York’s existing electrical grid, given the relatively low cost of electricity that’s available between midnight and 6 a.m. “This will be one of many questions we hope to answer during the coming year,” Dr. Shevat said.

Beyond this, she said, campers who spend the night in the “Solar Kolony” will also have a chance to learn about other green building and living practices.

The 400-square-foot units, each of which sleep six, are all unique, but still have one thing in common: green technologies. Some of the units feature bamboo flooring, LED lighting, recycled axels and tires, recycled lumber composite decking, on-demand water heating, energy efficient heating and air-conditioning as well as a complete assortment of eco-friendly cleaning and bathroom products, including coreless toilet paper that leaves no cardboard core at the end of the roll. Even the units’ Amish-style furniture has been manufactured from recycled milk jugs and recycled hickory wood.

Storage tanks are also being set up to capture rainwater that falls on the units so that it can be used to irrigate an organic vegetable and herb garden. Park guests will be encouraged to pick vegetables and herbs from the garden during the summer months and to use them in their cooking while they stay at the park.

“Our guests will not only have an opportunity for a great camping experience, but the dwelling itself becomes an educational tool,” Dr. Shevat said, adding, “My hope is that our guests not only come to enjoy our park and our ‘Solar Kolony’ with friends and family, but come away inspired to live a greener lifestyle.”

For more information about the ‘Solar Kolony’ at the Herkimer Diamond KOA, please contact: Dr. Renee Scialdo Shevat at (315) 717-0175 or; Tim Gage at Cavco Industries at (602) 763-5488 or

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New York KOA Adds First Solar Power Lodge

May 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

koa-logoThe Herkimer Diamond, N.Y., Kampground of America (KOA) recently became the first campground in the U.S. with a 100% off-the-power-grid, solar-powered commercial camping lodge.

With solar panels on its roof harnessing energy and a prototype propane backup generator, the new KOA Solar 1 Lodge is able to run completely independent of outside energy sources, according to a news release. The generator kicks in to recharge the system’s power-storage batteries during cloudy weather.

Built by one of KOA’s preferred suppliers, Cavco Industries Inc., the lodge features Generac’s industry-first propane generator, which backs up a system of solar panels made by Solarmax, a leader in solar technology.

The Solar 1 Lodge is packed with “green” technology and products, right down to its recycled metal roof and pulverized glass landscaping. Even the bed pillows are made from fiberfill from recycled plastic bottles.

The new lodge lets people have the experience, and learn about all of the green technologies, said Renee Scialdo Shevat, owner of the Herkimer Diamond KOA and the 2010 KOA Franchisee of the Year.

The green theme continues outside, with deck furniture fabricated from recycled plastic milk jugs, and an organic garden where guests can harvest their own vegetables during their stay.

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Herkimer Diamond KOA Named Top KOA Campground

November 19, 2009 by · Comments Off on Herkimer Diamond KOA Named Top KOA Campground 


The owners of the Herkimer Diamond, N.Y., KOA are flanked by KOA CEO Jim Rogers, left, and COO Pat Hittmeier, right.

The owners of the Herkimer Diamond, N.Y., KOA are flanked by KOA CEO Jim Rogers, left, and COO Pat Hittmeier, right.

The Herkimer Diamond, N.Y., KOA Kampground was named Kampgrounds of America Inc.’s (KOA) Kamground of the Year during a ceremony Wednesday (Nov. 18) at KOA’s annual convention in Houston, Texas.

“Being named Kampground of the Year is the highest award in the KOA system,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. It is only given to those campground franchisees who truly are the very best of the best in every aspect of what they do, he added

Purchased in 1981 by Rudy and Rena Scialdo, and now run by their daughter, Dr. Renee Scialdo Shevat, and her husband Sam Shevat, the Herkimer Diamond, N.Y., KOA has gained local and national acclaim for its excellent accommodations and outstanding customer service, according to a news release. Its beginnings were a bit more humble, however.

It is said that the farmer who owned the property would see the cattle in his pastures trip, as their hooves broke through the ground. In the hole left behind, he would find a large pocket full of naturally occurring, 18-faceted quartz crystals, now known as Herkimer Diamonds.

The Herkimer Diamond Mines first opened to the public in 1955, with prospectors leaving a dollar in a mailbox as their fee. Eventually, the mines were sold to a group of investors, who built a rock shop and a public campground to serve the needs of the prospectors. That campground eventually became the KOA gem that it is today.

At the Herkimer Diamond KOA, guests find 135 sites, including tent and RV sites. There are also 16 Kabins, five Kottages and two Lodges. Each of the heated and air-conditioned Kottages, which come with a private bath, kitchenette and dining area, have a different theme and are decorated accordingly. Those themes include “World Wide Gems,” “Fish Tales,” “Captains Quarters” and more. Each of the kabins is named after a gemstone, like “Shady Sapphires,” “Amber Annex” or “Peridot Place.”

On site, campers will enjoy spending time on the West Canada Creek, jumping in the pool or playing disc golf, and there is always something fun happening during the season (April 15-Nov. 1). And of course, everyone likes to try their hand at finding fortune at the Herkimer Diamond Mines.

For a minimal fee (kids age 4 and under are free), campers receive a prospecting admission ticket/wristband, a hammer and a collector’s bag for their finds. They watch an instructional video and head off to the mining area, where they can spend the day finding — and breaking — rocks and digging in pockets. They can then take their treasures to the rock shop to have custom jewelry made for them.

Also available are sluice bags full of rough material, perfect for young campers.

“Of course, the mines are a huge draw for the Herkimer KOA,” Hittmeier said. “But what we hear from KOA guests time and time again is how well they’re taken care of when they stay there.”

That includes, he said, the friendliness of the staff and their willingness to go out of their way to meet the needs of campers.

“At KOA, we frequently survey our campers,” Hittmier noted, “and time and time again, this campground gets some of the highest scores anywhere in North America. That’s why they won the President’s and Founders Awards this year as well.

“It’s an outstanding accomplishment that accurately reflects the outstanding efforts of the Scialdos and the Shevats.”

Watch a video from Wednesday’s convention highlights in the featured video elsewhere on this page.

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