Representatives from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its affiliates made a show of force in Washington, D.C., last week, holding 80 face-to-face meetings with members of the U.S. House and Senate to voice industry concern over recent changes proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its ADA pool lift guidance released on Jan. 31.
According to a press release, ARVC’s objective was to continue to “hammer home” the outdoor hospitality industry’s opposition to recently proposed federal guidelines that would require public accommodations, including campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, to install fixed, permanent pool lifts at every body of water on commercial property.
While ARVC supports the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the association has called on the Justice Department to change its proposed guidelines to make it possible for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts to meet the latest ADA requirements with portable pool lifts, which ARVC contends are equally accessible to the public, but would not create a safety hazard for children who will be attracted to the apparatus.
ARVC and its affiliates have also endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., that would extend the compliance deadline for one year while also allowing portable pool lifts to meet the new ADA pool lift requirements.
The Justice Department is expected to announce this week if it has reached a decision on whether it will allow private parks, hotels and other hospitality businesses to accommodate disabled people with portable pool lifts or whether it needs more time to study the issue. The Justice Department previously issued a 60-day delay in enforcing its proposed pool lift requirements in response to a coordinated lobbying effort by ARVC and its coalition partners in the hospitality industry.
“Last week’s meetings represent the continuing pressure we are bringing to bear on the ADA pool lift issue, which has already succeeded in prompting the Justice Department to postpone the implementation timeline of new regulations while it considers possible changes to ADA pool lift requirements,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO.
Those efforts have included letter-writing campaigns; a visit to the White House at the invitation of the administration to discuss the issue; an official written comment to the Department of Justice’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that expired April 4, 2012; as well as coordinated lobbying by ARVC and its partners in the hotel industry, which include such notables as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Water Park Association.
Congressional representatives have also sent letters to top Justice Department officials in response to the outreach by the campground and hotel industries.
Recently, Congressman, Bill Owens, D-N.Y., who met last week with fellow New Yorker and member of the ARVC Board of Directors, Truman Hartshorn, sent a letter to Allison Nichol, chief of the Justice Department’s Disability Rights Section, criticizing the burden that the department has placed on small businesses. “Your office’s total inflexibility to consider alternatives, such as a portable lift, demonstrates that this rule was poorly crafted and did not meaningfully incorporate any ideas or suggestions from the industries that will be affected,” Owens wrote. “I suggest you delay implementation of this rule and work with all the parties affected to come up with a more practical solution.”
Campground industry representatives also attending last week’s meetings included ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter of Leisure Systems, Inc.; ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei; ARVC Government Affairs Committee Chairman Al Johnson of Recreational Adventures Company, a Hill City, S.D. company that owns and operates multiple KOA campgrounds; Debbie Sipe of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds; Kathy Frederick and Sandra Brown of the Connecticut Campground Owners Association; Rick Abare of the Maine Campground Owners Association; Norman Gurevich of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds; Tracie Fisher of ARVC Michigan; Gregg Pittman of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association; Joann DelVechio and Jay Sporl, Sr. of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association; Todd Kaser and Chip Hanawalt of the Ohio Campground Owners Association; Jim Breneman of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association; Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group; Lori Severson of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners; Marcia Galvin of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners; and Jon Heidrich of Shangri-La RV Resort in Yuma, Ariz.
The National Issues Conference sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) got under way today (May 8) in Washington, D.C.
ARVC retained McDermott, Will & Emery, a leading Washington, D.C., law firm, registered lobbyist and powerful partner on Capitol Hill, to assist in the event. Some of the issues that will be focused on include:
• Ensuring that members of Congress appreciate the importance of tourism and travel to the overall health of the American economy, and that travel and tourism accounted for 7.5 million jobs in 2010.
• Fighting for a transportation infrastructure bill, which is vital to connecting tourists and travelers to their destinations; and
• Seeking clearer guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations covering swimming pools and spas.
The first Spring Seminar Series scheduled for May 16-17 in Denver and sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has been postponed and will be rescheduled.
ARVC announced the postponement in the April issue of the ARVC Voice.
Prospective attendees were unable to commit to the mid-May date, the association noted.
“Our goal is to provide you with business-building tools, enhancing your knowledge base,growing your operation and, ultimately, boosting your bottom line. We would love your feedback on optimum dates as well as topics for future Seminar Series,” ARVC stated.
Members should send their input to email@example.com.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) threw private park operators a curve ball earlier this year when it published dramatic changes in accessibility requirements for swimming pool lifts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to a press release generated by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), new regulations published Jan. 31 gave park owners only 45 days to install swimming pool lifts at their facilities – an “unrealistic timetable given the size of the campground industry and the relatively small numbers of pool lift providers,” according to ARVC.
DOJ officials also gave park operators differing interpretations of the new regulations, with some saying permanent pool lifts are required at every pool or body of water, while others said portable pool lift devices would suffice.
The 2010 ADA Standards gave park operators the option of installing either permanent or portable pool lifts to provide their disabled guests with access to pool, wading pool and spa facilities.
Given these contradictions, and the looming enforcement deadline, ARVC joined forces with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and other groups to call on the DOJ to revise its regulations to make it easier for small and medium size businesses to comply with the new regulations using portable pool lifts. ARVC and its industry partners have also asked the federal government to extend the deadline for compliance with the new regulations by six months.
ARVC submitted its latest comments on the ADA pool lift compliance issue to the Department of Justice on April 4, less than two weeks after ARVC joined its industry partners at a White House meeting to encourage the DOJ to revise its pool lift requirements.
Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of state relations and program advocacy, is working closely with the Washington D.C. law firm of McDermott Will & Emery on the ADA pool compliance issue. In a recent Q & A, Sims addressed several key questions involving the history of the pool lift issue, where we’re at today, and what park operators can expect ARVC to do on this issue in the coming months:
Q: Were campgrounds, RV parks and resorts previously required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make swimming and wading pools and spas accessible for the disabled?
Sims: No. Not until now. The ADA regulations and Standards for Accessible Design that were originally published in 1991 set the standard for what makes a facility accessible. And while the updated 2010 standards retain many of the original provisions of the 1991 standards, they do contain some significant differences. They are also used differently depending on whether you are altering an existing building, building a new facility or removing architectural barriers that have existed for years.
Q: When did the U.S. Department of Justice first indicate that portable pool lifts may not be compliant in some circumstances with ADA regulations?
Sims: On Jan. 31 of this year – Just two months before the deadline for compliance!
Q: Why is it important for ARVC members to be aware of these standards?
Sims: These standards can have a direct effect on park’s cost of doing business. This is also a civil rights issue about accessibility. The ADA’s regulations and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, originally published in 1991, set the standard for what makes a facility accessible. While the updated 2010 Standards retain many of the original provisions in the 1991 Standards, they do contain some significant differences. These standards are the key for determining if a small business’s facilities are accessible under the ADA. However, they are used differently, depending on whether a small business is altering an existing building, building a brand new facility, or removing architectural barriers that have existed for years.
Q: Are there other facilities besides swimming pools that are subject to new ADA regulations?
Sims: Yes. The 2010 ADA Standards also set new accessibility requirements for exercise machines and equipment; fishing piers and platforms; miniature golf and regular golf facilities; play areas; recreational boating facilities; and residential facilities and dwelling units.
Q: Campground operators have received conflicting information from federal officials over what the Justice Department really required, particularly on the question of whether private parks could get by using portable pool lifts or whether they would be required to install permanent pool lifts for each swimming pool. Do we know even now what the federal government really required?
Sims: We asked the Department of Justice to revisit and revise its Jan. 31 guidance, which required a fixed pool lift (if readily achievable). The guidance also stated that a portable pool lift is not compliant in some circumstances. In expressing a preference for and requiring a fixed pool lift, the federal guidance is at variance with the 2010 Final Rule, which did not distinguish between fixed and portable lifts. Furthermore, we believe there has been no evidence presented during the rulemaking that demonstrably shows the superiority and necessity of a fixed pool lift. In our experience, a portable pool lift is functionally equivalent to a fixed lift in that it provides entry and exit from the pool or spa. It’s also a more affordable option for park operators in meeting these new requirements.
Q: When did ARVC get involved in monitoring the pool lift issue and intervening on behalf of private park operators on this issue?
Sims: I was hired on Jan. 15, 2011, and became aware of the issue nearly immediately. ARVC hired McDermott, Will & Emery in Washington, D.C. to head up our legal and lobbying efforts in April of 2011. They issued their first “Guidance for ARVC Members Regarding the New ADA Requirements for Pools and Spas” on May 11, 2011. On June 16, they provided additional guidance to ARVC members concerning the term “readily achievable” in Department of Justice parlance. They have since helped us develop an effective grass roots campaign on this issue.
Q: What has ARVC achieved to date on this issue?
Sims: ARVC has been the leader in providing information concerning the new ADA Standards to the campground industry. Working with our coalition partners and our members, we were able to convince U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to delay the implementation of new ADA rules regarding swimming and wading pools for at least 60 days. That means the compliance deadline has been pushed back to May 15th. The Department of Justice also published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which solicited comments on whether or not it should delay the implementation of the new rules for pools and spas 180 days. ARVC organized a letter writing campaign to provide NPRM input on behalf of campground owners to insure our common voice was heard.
Q: What other business groups are working with us on the ADA issue?
Sims: We are working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the American Resort Development Association, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the National Apartment Association, the National Multi Housing Council, The Real Estate Roundtable, and the World Water Park Association. There is strength in numbers and that is how we have been able to leverage ARVC’s voice.
Q: What did ARVC request of the Justice Department in its April 4 letter?
Sims: We stated that our members are very strong supporters of the spirit and intent of the ADA. However, we noted that the technical assistance document or “guidance” published by the Department of Justice on Jan. 31 is confusing, at variance with the 2010 Final Rule, and problematic for those of us who fully intend to comply with the ADA’s requirements. We, therefore, called on the Department of Justice to revisit and revise its Jan. 31 guidance. We noted that the department had failed to consider the financial burden permanent pool lift requirements would place on our members, not only for the equipment itself but for the required electrical bonding under the National Electrical Code and for the reconstruction of pool decks. We also noted that the installation of fixed pool lifts also requires building permits and construction work that can take additional time, and that places public accommodations at risk of being sued for non-compliance. In any event, a sufficient supply of fixed pool lifts is simply not currently available, according to a representative of pool lift manufacturers who met with Obama administration officials on March 26. We also urged the Department of Justice to make clear that public accommodations may store portable pool lifts and make them available after determining at check-in whether a disabled patron wishes to use the accommodation’s pool or spa. Additionally, we urged the Department of Justice to allow public accommodations to share portable pool lifts among pools and spas. In fact, such a requirement could make more pools and spas accessible to disabled patrons.
Q: What happens now?
Sims: The Department of Justice is considering nearly 1,400 comments that were submitted on the topic of extending the compliance date for 180 days, which leads us to believe the extension may be attainable. However, many advocacy groups for the disabled have argued that the compliance date should not be extended at all. Meanwhile, ARVC and other organizations are continuing to argue that the Justice Department should not require fixed pool lifts and that portable pool lifts should be compliant. Legislation has also been introduced in Congress to delay the implementation date and to the allow the use of portable pool lifts. But passage of such legislation seems unlikely. ARVC members should, therefore, continue to make their voices heard to their representatives on this issue. This will be a key topic ARVC members who are attending the National Issues Conference in Washington, D.C .on May 9 will be addressing in private Congressional meetings.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an interview by Woodall’s Campground Management with Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), following a three-week road trip that took him to many state association conventions and meetings as well as an ARVC board meeting. To read the entire interview click here.
According to Bambei, key issues facing ARVC include:
•Performance Licenses: Foremost on the member benefit front is the completion of licensing negotiations with the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).“The BMI deal is done, which was very important to me, strategically, to get it done first,” Bambei explained, noting that it was one of the three performing rights organizations (PROs) ARVC has been talking with. “It represented 70% of the licensing revenue that ARVC members submitted in 2011. It made sense to get that out of the way first.”
• Membership Status: At the ARVC board meeting held in mid-March in Memphis, Tenn., the board unanimously agreed to keep the current structure relative to “affiliated” and “cooperating” states in place and unchanged, Bambei said. ARVC counts 28 states as having affiliated or full membership status.
• White House meeting on ADA: ARVC undertook a major lobbying effort this year to counteract the impending new regulations through the Americans with Disabilities Act with regard to wheel chair lift requirements for public swimming pools. The coalition succeeded in getting a 60-day extension on the new regulations, which would have taken effect in mid-March.
• Benefit Provider Update: ARVC representatives are conducting talks to establish preferred provider status with several companies, including Moen, a manufacturer of faucets and shower heads; Schlage, maker of locks and security gates; and Speed Queen, maker of commercial washers and dryers.
• State Park Membership: ARVC’s attempt to increase its membership by opening the doors to state parks has not been successful in attracting a large number of state parks, Bambei conceded. The initiative, as Bambei explained, was to work with individual affiliated states to do whatever they wanted to do.
The entire 20-member board of directors of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has voted unanimously to maintain ARVC’s existing structure, which includes cooperative and affiliated tiers of partnership with state campground associations.
“The board sent a clear message that our current structure enables us to best serve campground and RV park owners, whom they view as our ultimate customers,” Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, said in a press release.
The unanimous vote took place March 20 in Memphis, Tenn., after a strategic task force comprised of campground industry representatives had spent more than a year studying the various relationships ARVC could have with state associations and with park owners.
As directed by the board, task force recommendations have been publicly posted on the ARVC.org website since early December for over 60 days. Subsequently, seven state associations and several ARVC members voiced their comments, which were all documented and shared at the Memphis board meeting in March.
The options under consideration included creating a direct membership structure, in which parks could join ARVC directly without having to pay dues to their state association. This option is currently available only to parks in states that are not affiliated with ARVC.
The board also considered creating a federation of state associations in which ARVC and its staff would focus their attention exclusively on the needs of state campground association executives.
But after nearly six hours of discussion, all 20 board members agreed that maintaining ARVC’s existing structure is the best option because it serves the needs of park operators as well as state campground associations.
“All three options had pros and cons that were strongly considered and vetted,” Bambei said. “Each board member was educated on the pros and cons of the three types of structures that were under consideration, and out of that vetting came a vote that was unanimous.”
The actual motion stated “that the ARVC board out of three choices elects to pursue Option No. 2 (Partnership) and to make public to the membership the reasons as to this decision.”
Deb Carter, who serves as executive director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds and is the ARVC board representative for the affiliated and cooperating state executives, said she was pleased by the “thoroughness and clarity of the education and voting processes” and by the fact that every board member had the opportunity to voice his or her opinion or concern before casting their vote.
“For me, I think the best part of that was the fact that everybody felt free to speak and everybody’s opinion was respected and discussed,” Carter said. “There were no hidden agendas. It had nothing to do with state or national associations. It really had to do with what’s right for our members.”
Carter also sent an e-mail to members of the Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP) notifying them of the unanimous vote and of the need for ARVC to maintain its current relationship structure with state associations. “I believe that the current form is so far improved from a couple of years ago that we need to give it more time to mature and become more solid and fair to all involved,” she wrote.
ARVC Chairman Rob Schutter, for his part, said he was pleased with the outcome of the vote. “I think the significance of the vote is that it underscores everyone’s desire to maintain relationships with state associations that are out there and established,” he said.
“It truly is a partnership, and it brings the question down the road of how valuable it is to affiliate with ARVC,” said board member Garry Cole, noting that the entire industry has benefited from ARVC’s work on the ADA pool lift issue.
Former ARVC Chairman David L. Berg also noted that maintaining the existing structure puts the onus on ARVC to produce results. “I believe that we need to continue our structure as is and show value to our state execs and members,” he said.
During their Memphis meeting, ARVC’s board also voted to lower the threshold required for states to have a “cooperative” relationship status with ARVC. Under the previous bylaws, 60% of a state campground association’s members had to also be ARVC members for a state to have “cooperative” relationship with ARVC. Under the bylaw change approved in Memphis, state associations can now become cooperative members if 50% of their members are also ARVC members.
In cooperative relationships, ARVC shares 10% of the membership dues it collects from parks with their state association. States that are affiliated with ARVC receive 20% of the membership dues ARVC collects.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and the ARVC Foundation announce the first Spring Seminar Series as an extension to its already popular Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo held in November and the National School of RV Park and Campground Management held in February.
The first Spring Seminar will be held May 16-17 in Denver.
“We’ve scheduled the series mid-week so that campground operators can get back to their parks in time to prepare for the weekend,” Barb Youmans, ARVC’s senior director of membership and education, stated in a news release. “Seminars will end at 2 p.m. on Thursday, making it easy to catch an evening flight.”
ARVC’s Spring Seminar Series features nine seminars:
• “Protecting Your Park From Perils” with Mark Maciha of Northern Arizona University. As part of this seminar, park operators will fill out a needs assessment that helps them determine areas of potential risk in their campgrounds. Maciha will work with park operators to develop a plan to reduce health and safety risks in their parks.
• “Happy Campers,” a seminar that teaches park operators how to communicate expectations to staff and ensure that those expectations are met every day so that guests achieve the highest levels of customer service.
• “Business Cents” with Mary Arlington of MMCC Inc. Arlington will help park operators learn how to optimize customer satisfaction within the business capabilities of their organization and develop a plan to achieve needed business modifications that are identified in the session.
• “Risky Business,” a session that helps park operators learn how to implement effective risk management practices.
• “Great Expectations” with Ron Williams of Travel Resorts of America. This session will teach park operators how to set standards for their business as well as how to monitor and maintain service levels.
• “The Social Stampede” with Barb Krumm and Rachel Beckerman of Ocean Lakes Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C. This session provides basic instruction in Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. Park operators will learn how to use these tools and incorporate them into their business strategy.
• “Cash Cow” with Bud Styers and Associates and Smokey Hollow Campground in Lodi, Wis. Styer will teach park operators how to identify creative ways to raise revenue by providing additional services, activities and products.
• “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions,” a seminar that helps park operators assess the various technologies that are available to help them attract more business. This session will show park operators how to make the best decisions for their business.
• “Let’s Go Shopping” with Janine Roberts of Tradavo, a wholesale supplier of foods, beverages and sundries to small format retailers. Park operators will learn how to manage the retail space they have while creating an appealing atmosphere and making more money.
Registration includes all seminars and materials, as well as, breakfast and lunch both days. Discounts are available for those who register before March 31. Special lodging rates are available for seminar participants at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center. For more information, visit www.arvc.org/seminarSeriesMain.aspx or call the ARVC Education Department at (303) 681-0401, Ext. 118.
Tucson, Ariz., RV park owner George O’Leary is putting the finishing touches on $1 million worth of improvements at his two Rincon Country RV Resorts, according to a press release.
“You would not believe the number of people who have complimented us,” said O’Leary, who recently resurfaced the roads and completed other cosmetic improvements to his two Rincon Country parks.
While the improvements have yet to translate into increased business for his two parks, O’Leary says it is imperative for RV park and resort operators in Tucson and across the Sunbelt to continually make improvements to their facilities if they want to continue to attract today’s snowbirds.
“I remember when we opened our first Rincon Country park in 1970,” O’Leary said. “Our first renters were World War One retirees and Depression Era campers – a very frugal and easy to please group of people.”
Today’s snowbirds, however, are increasingly looking for high-quality amenities , which means park operators have to continually upgrade facilities if they want to retain or expand their marketshare.
“We are continuously improving the appearance and modernization of our resorts,” O’Leary said. “Quite often when folks drive into our parks, they say to us, ‘This looks like a new park.’ They are surprised to learn that Rincon County East opened for business in 1979 and Rincon West in 1984.”
In addition to making cosmetic improvements, O’Leary has also hired a new activities director for each resort and expanded his parks’ offering of activities, including classes and professional live entertainment, including comedy shows, celebrity impersonators and musical entertainment. Classes include arts and crafts, woodcarving, pottery and ceramics as well as lapidary and silversmithing. The resorts also offer periodic seminars on health related topics as well as potlucks, wine tastings, dances and other social events.
For more information about Rincon Country RV Resorts, please visit the resorts’ websites at www.rinconcountry.com. Both resorts are affiliated with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the Denver-based trade association that representatives the outdoor hospitality industry that markets campgrounds, RV parks and resorts through its website at www.GoCampingAmerica.com.
The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) is holding its 2011 national conference this week at Custer State Park in South Dakota.
NASPD’s event takes on added significance this year because members will be voting on a proposal to extend full NASPD membership to the National Association of RV parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The NASPD vote comes on the heels of an agreement announced July 8 to extend free membership in ARVC to NASPD members on a trial basis for the remainder of this year.
The NASPD members will discuss ARVC state park memberships today between 10 a.m. and noon Mountain Time.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) officially moved into their new headquarters building located at 9085 E. Mineral Circle, Suite 200, Centennial, Colo., in April without incident.
The new headquarters is in a professional office-park development called Panorama Falls and is located 10 miles from downtown Denver, within 35 miles of the Denver International Airport and easily accessible via all major highways, ARVC stated.
The building purchase was a wise business decision, according to Patrick O’Neill, CPO, and ARVC board member.
“The honeymoon of our new CEO Bambei and his ingenious idea to make an offer on a property that was not for sale got us the right deal at the right time,” he said. “We went from a rural ‘bears in the backyard’ log home setting to an urban office space that is ‘just the right size’ for our needs. The Centennial location will provide a high energy location that is befitting of the new ARVC direction, efficiency and the challenges ahead of us.”