Like many states across the Sunbelt, Texas offers a welcome refuge for Midwesterners seeking to escape winter’s chill, according to a press release.
In fact, growing numbers of Winter Texans enjoy the climate so much that they are investing in park model cottages, which they use as affordable vacation homes in RV parks and resorts across the Lone Star State.
“Every year we like it a little more,” said Richard Neiner, a 68-year-old Missouri resident who spent this past winter in a park model rental at La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages in Austin. After spending three winters at the resort, Neiner and his wife are now planning to purchase their own park model and have it set up on a leased campsite before next winter.
The Neiners will be joining many other Winter Texans who have purchased park models at La Hacienda, including Tom and Anne Spieles of Traverse City, Mich., who have spent the past four winters at the resort.
“When we left home we had two to three feet of snow in our back yard with drifts up to five feet high,” Anne Spieles said, adding that she and her husband enjoy Austin’s warmer winter weather and the comfort of their park model.
“It’s very comfortable for my husband and me,” she said. “The people here are so friendly. They are just so welcoming to people.”
Demand for park models has been growing steadily at La Hacienda RV Resort during the past several years, said Ken Butschek, the resort’s developer.
“We have 39 park models now and I’m bring in 10 more units,” he said, adding that the additional units will be used as rental accommodations.
The RV resort, which open in 2004 with 60 sites, was expanded by an additional 188 sites in 2007 and 2008.
And while park models were initially offered as rental units, growing numbers of Winter Texans have opted to purchase units of their own, which they can keep on site on leased campsites year round.
La Hacienda is also raising consumer awareness about its park model rentals through its website and rack cards, both of which won awards last year from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Park Model RV Committee (PMRV) convened on Jan. 21 to set priorities for 2014.
According to a press release, the top priority for the committee is the completion of the 2014/15 revision cycle of the ANSI A119.5 standard. Significantly, the committee is proposing to change the very name of that standard from “Standard for Recreation Park Trailers” to “Standard for Park Model RVs and Campground Units.” This change reflects the evolution of these products into two distinct categories: park models that are a type of RV on the one hand and other units that belong in campgrounds such as duplex and triplex units built to ANSI A119.5 on the other.
According to RVIA PMRV Committee Chairman John Soard of Fairmont Homes, “This change, along with dozens of technical changes, will improve the safety of park models and also catch the A119.5 standard up with the reality of what the PMRV segment of the RV industry is today in terms of what our customers and campgrounds expect and desire.” These changes must now go through the ANSI Canvass Committee and Consensus process, which could take eight to twelve months.
The committee also agreed that more detailed tracking of PMRV shipments was in order. Starting with the January 2014 PMRV shipment report, RVIA will report not just total PMRV shipments, but break those shipments down by shipments to retail consumers vs. shipments to campgrounds for use as rental units.
According to RVIA Park Model RV Executive Director Matt Wald, “Of the approximately 3,600 PMRVs shipped in 2013, our best estimate is that about half went to retail and half went to campgrounds as rental units. But the Committee thinks it’s important to get hard numbers on that question. RVIA will track and report that data.”
The committee also discussed PMRV and seasonal camping PR and advertising efforts for 2014. In 2013, those efforts were focused around a satellite media tour and earned media. For 2014, the committee is seeking to do direct consumer outreach to not just explain what PMRVs are, but promote the seasonal camping lifestyle as an alternative to second homes and vacations at hotel resorts.
The committee’s goal is to pursue this market with select media buys in the print and digital space as well as a direct-to-consumer printed piece. The committee also discussed efforts to make foreign markets including Japan more viable for export of PMRVS, how the National RV Trade Show might be improved for PMRV OEMs, and how to convince national lenders to add retail financing of PMRVs to their loan portfolios.
“This is an exciting time for our committee,” said Soard. “Like the rest of the RV industry, PMRV shipments are strong. And at this point we are through all of the transitional issues from RPTIA to RVIA. So now our focus is 100% on protecting but also especially growing and cultivating the seasonal camping and PMRV market.”
A province-wide recall in Brisith Columbia has been issued for any owners or occupants of mobile homes built by Riske Creek Manufacturing, and its principle Andy Tower.
The British Columbia Safety Authority issued the recall after finding some homes built by the Salmon Arm company don’t comply with gas or electrical certification standards and may be hazardous to its occupants.
That issue is not disputed by Tower, who acknowledges that his company has been locked in an ongoing dispute with the BCSA for the past three years.
“There are issues with our units that they have pointed out, (and) I understand that,” he explains. “The same issues that exist on our units that they’ve pointed out to us exist on probably hundreds of units in the area and when I bring it to the inspector’s attention, they choose to ignore it and tell me its not for my concern. That’s the basis for the argument.”
Tower tells Castanet that his company constructs a product that has recently become increasingly popular in a niche market, where consumers are looking to downsize their lives following retirement. Many of these units are referred to as park models and are no larger than 12 feet by 38 feet, but have all the same amenities and creature comforts as an actual house. They can even be trailered in and dropped off as permanent residences at RV parks.
The catch is that these homes don’t necessarily fit into any particular building code and instead Tower says they exist in a gray area somewhere between an RV and a house.
“There’s a gray area between park models, which we build, and the BC Building Code. And we find ourselves in that gray area and in our view BC Safety is struggling to comprehend what should apply where,” explains Tower. “I build well in excess of the park model building codes, which are different than the BC building codes, but depending on the application, BC Safety is struggling to govern that. They don’t have the adequate regulations in place to govern it, so they’re struggling and I’m caught in the mix.”
This is where Tower says the problem lies, as he thinks the BCSA needs to update their resources and regulations to include a separate category for these new buildings. He says these units do not require building permits when they are installed at RV parks and run under a different classification and different construction practices than what the BC building code would dictate.
“Not all the information that they have available to them covers all applications of these units. And because the popularity of these units and park models in resorts, its quickly becoming the new norm and everyone wants to go this way for their retirement property.”
Top read the full story click here.
Editor’s Note: The following story from Woodall’s Campground Management offers a look at the participating park model manufacturers at America’s Largest RV Show scheduled for September in Hershey, Pa. To read the entire article click here.
• Champion/Athens Park Homes sees the 2013 Hershey show as the culmination of a great year and the kickoff to the 2014 season, says Dick Grymonprez, director of park model sales for Champion Homes. “We look forward to the Pennsylvania show,” he said. The company is building park models from eight plants across the U.S. and the two units it’s showing at Hershey – one from the Rental Cottage Series and the other from the traditional Royal Series – are being built in Champion’s plant in Sangerfield, N.Y.
“That plant will service all our needs in the Northeast,” said Grymonprez, who noted that it also will build units for customers in eastern Canada.
The Hershey units showcase Champion/Athens Park Homes’ best design elements, including a front porch, tape and textured walls with wood accents, wains coating and a “hunter’s cabin feel” to the Rental Cottage unit and a rear porch, full tape and textured walls and ceilings, lots of upgrades and clear story windows with high ceilings for the Royal unit, he said.
This will be the first time to the Hershey show for Grymonprez in several years. The long haul from Texas made taking park models problematic in years past, but now with a plant within a half-day’s drive, the challenge is gone, he said.
Champion has been signing up new accounts throughout the year and adding park model production to some of its plants for the first time, he said. “We are really going after the camping business and oil boom housing business,” he said. “Any place a park model can be used, we’re going after.”
Champion’s plant in Weiser, Idaho, will build park models for western Canadian customers.
“We will have both sides of Canada covered efficiently,” added Grymonprez, who cited the increased park model demand there.
The company is building park models for customers in Japan and Finland.
Grymonprez also said the company continues to do well in Texas, Athens Park Homes; home base, where it has put units in more than 50 campgrounds since its founding in 2005.
Champion now sells park models in 37 states.
• Larry Weaver, sales manager at Dutch Park Homes, Goshen, Ind., is also excited about this year’s Hershey Show, where a new Dutch Park Homes dealer, Ken Asel RV of Gerry, N.Y., will be showing the company’s Monterey and Sterling 12-wides and 8 ½-wide Classic.
The Monterey is Dutch Park Homes’ best-selling model and is actually part 13-wide and part 12-wide. MSRP for this popular unit is in the vicinity of $59,000.
Dutch Park Homes has been coming to the Pennsylvania Show every year since 1980 and the 2012 show was one of its best, with 11 sales recorded, Weaver said.
He’s got a great location at this year’s show and looks forward to showing off all the new decors in Dutch Park Homes’ 2014 units, he said.
• Recreation by Design, a 25-year-year-old Elkhart, Ind.-based specialty vehicle manufacturer now aiming directly at RV dealers, will take two units to Hershey, a 48-foot fifth-wheel from its Baypoint Signature Series, and a 44-foot, two-bedroom Baypoint destination trailer, reports Terry Hiser, sales director for dealer development. MSRPs on the two units are $90,000 and $48,000, respectively.
Recreation By Design moved into a 70,000–square-foot, state-of-the-art former manufactured housing facility on the southwest side of Elkhart in the last year, which allows the company to expand from its historic specialty vehicle focus on the movie, agricultural and carnival industries to a broader line of products, Hiser explained.
“We now have the capability to go out and address the dealer market,” said Hiser.
The destination trailer, with four slideouts, has an appeal to the campground market, Hiser noted, as it was shown at Hershey in 2012 and did quite well.
Recreation By Design also has an expertise in building units in its Custom Series that are handicap accessible. Features include 48-inch exterior openings for power lifts, 36-inch inside doorways and roll-in shower units.
“We’ve done our homework on this over the last two years,” Hiser said. “We can accommodate just about everyone.”
Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC and Breckenridge today (July 24) announced the formation of a reciprocal partnership between the companies designed to maximize sales and increase market share in the growing park model and destination trailer segments.
The collaboration, set to go into effect Aug. 1, will merge Breckenridge’s reputation as a respected, quality-oriented manufacturer with Heartland’s oversight and management expertise. According to a press release, the firms will continue to operate as stand-alone divisions of Thor Industries Inc.
As part of the move, Heartland President Chris Hermon will also serve as president of Nappanee, Ind.-based Breckenridge. Hermon reported that the companies would build product year-round from dedicated manufacturing and service facilities “that would cater to the destination trailer segment.”
“Dealers will be able to order product any time during the year,” he said, noting that Heartland currently sells two destination trailer brands. “That will set us apart from other manufacturers that only build a few times a year. Dealers will be energized to work with companies committed to this product segment.”
Hermon emphasized that the partnership would be a “very symbiotic” arrangement.
“We have a lot to offer Breckenridge in terms of leadership, support and direction while Breckenridge has a lot to offer in product, manufacturing and a deep loyal customer base,” he said. “By combining forces, Breckenridge will become even stronger and continue to be a leader in the park model and destination trailer markets while Heartland will be able to grow its destination trailer business.”
Breckenridge was founded in 1991 by Tim Howard, who retired in February of 2012. The company has been a forerunner in the industry and currently offers a full complement of products to meet emerging demands.
“Breckenridge has very strong brand recognition with consumers,” said Hermon, who joined Heartland in May of 2012. “Our focus will be to apply our proven business model to build business for Breckenridge and Heartland. We are putting plans and resources in place to double sales and market share in the segment in the upcoming quarters and become the No. 1 producer in Elkhart County of park models and destination trailers.”
Hermon added that Heartland, which is enjoying a record-setting year, has a successful track record for bringing product to market and quickly growing market share.
“Our top priority is giving retail buyers the products they want and giving dealers the credible front- and back-end support they need,” said Hermon. “Our marketing and operational experience will be a perfect fit for Breckenridge.”
Hermon reported that plans are to roll out new products and programs as part of the Elkhart County RV Open House, set to run in mid-September.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) partnered with Kim Orlando, founder and editor of the popular TravelingMom.com website, for a satellite media tour that focused attention on the growing trend of seasonal camping in media markets nationwide.
Broadcasting from the Mystic KOA in Mystic, Conn., Orlando was interviewed by 20 television, radio and internet media outlets, in markets such as Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Tampa, Miami and Phoenix.
She shared with the audiences how non-RV owners can get a taste of the RV lifestyle by renting a park model or other towable RVs to enjoy a campground experience even if they do not yet own an RV or a tow vehicle. She also explained how more RVers are now seasonal campers, leaving their units at their favorite campground for the summer to enjoy frequent, convenient getaways, and provided a tour of a Forest River Cardinal fifth-wheel as an example of the seasonal camping RV lifestyle. Every interview included tips on getting started and pushed to GoRVing.com as a resource.
“We are delighted with the coverage this tour provided,” said Matt Wald, RVIA’s executive director of park model RVs. “It was timed to coincide with National Camping Week to generate media interest. Additionally, Kim Orlando was a great host who authentically endorses the park model and RV experience. She brings instant credibility as one of the nation’s top travel bloggers with family travel as her expertise.”
Editor’s Note: The following story by Kristopher Bunker appears in the June issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
While park models retain their stronghold on the destination-camping market, some OEM destination trailers continue to make noise.
Ambiguously referred to as everything from park models to “extended-stay trailers” — and, now, augmented by a new wave of “destination”-style hybrid towables generated by an array of North American recreational vehicle manufacturers — the growing trend among outdoor enthusiasts to own a unit that can be left at a campsite all season or all year may be the newest wrinkle in camping, but the units themselves are not for the most part altogether new in general concept.
Park models have, in fact, long been a reliable source of income for campground owners. More or less permanently located at a campsite, park models are a good way for campgrounds to not only cater to RV owners looking for a more residential-type camping experience, but also to draw in the non-RVing crowd to stimulate their bottom line with overnight fees that tend to dwarf those of average sites.
Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) have reported that demand for park models has risen dramatically over the past year, with registration revenues climbing to around 20% in both cases for 2012.
Given the scope of the market, it’s not surprising then that manufacturers of more “traditional” RVs have definitely taken notice, with a number of them beefing up existing models — or creating entirely new ones — in order to join the fray.
Coined “destination trailers,” these towables are generally larger and heavier than their conventional counterparts, and also include residential touches like bay windows, patio doors and larger refrigerators.
But should they be considered true park models, or do they even want to be?
A park model is defined by the ANSI A119.5 standard as “A vehicular-type unit primarily designed as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use, which either has its own motive power or is drawn by another vehicle.” NEC Article 552 goes on to add that to be considered a park model, a unit must meet the following criteria: “Built on a single chassis mounted on wheels, and having a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set-up mode.” We’re no doubt accus- tomed to seeing the 12-foot-wide park models at campgrounds, whether they’re bungalow-type units, casitas or even yurts (to some extent), but it may be difficult to discern one of the “new breed” of park models, especially considering they’re built on 8- or 8 1/2-foot wide footprints.
This new breed of destination trailer, however, does offer a distinct advantage.
“One of the major advantages an 8 1/2- foot-wide trailer like the Bay Point Destination Park Trailer has over a 12-wide park model is the ability to affordably move or transport the trailer yourself or have any small truck transport company move the unit for you,” said Terry Hiser, sales and marketing director for Recreation by Design RV. “The 12-wide park models require a large commercial transport truck and a CDL-licensed driver at significantly higher freight costs.”
To read the full article on WCM click here.
U.S. park model builders played a central role during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Committee Week, held June 2-6 at the historic Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington D.C. – more so than they have in years.
In an era when camping is trending in some cases toward more long-term stays involving an array of destination-style vehicles and camping cabins, RVIA has been focusing a lot of attention on park trailer builders who last year agreed to rejoin RVIA after an absence of 18 years and shelve their existing trade group, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
And it quickly became evident that park trailer companies are comfortable with their new association ties during Committee Week, where RVIA’s board of directors endorsed committee recommendations to change the name of the association’s “Destination Camping Committee” to the “Seasonal Camping Committee” to better reflect common use of those terms among RV park operators and the camping public.
RVIA, for public relations and marketing purposes, will now refer to these types of units as “Park Model RV’s” while using either of the terms “Recreational Park Trailers” or “Park Model RV’s” for regulatory and standards purposes. Behind the new nomenclature is a desire on the part of park model builders, the national trade association and many campground operators to accentuate their status as recreation vehicles that are essentially mobile and distinct from housing whenever such questions might arise among consumers, zoning boards and taxing bodies in the future.
“Really, it’s a rebranding effort,” reports Park Model RV Committee Chairman John Soard, general manager of Fairmont Park Models, a division of Nappanee, Ind.-based Fairmont Homes Inc. “We for a long time in the park model business have just wanted to be affiliated more closely with what HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) calls us, which is an RV, and we’ve just never had the word ‘RV’ in the actual name of the product. We wanted to have that name – RV – in there, and we are now ‘Park Model RV’s.’”
Soard is pleased with the RVIA staff support his company and the other 23 park trailer manufacturers who have joined RVIA since last year have been receiving in a number of ways — from seals to marketing to shipment reports — under the watch of Matt Wald, executive director of park model RV’s for RVIA.
“Those items are all important,” said Soard. “You have government affairs working hard to get a list of the code states and what their issues are and how to define park models. That was huge, and so was getting accurate shipping data. That’s a big deal, and we were very pleased with how that came about. Getting us RV seals was very helpful. Then, there’s the Show Committee integrating us back into the Louisville Show. That was a big deal for us as well.
“Again,” he added, “all of this took staff’s time and effort to get things done for us. These are all things that we all, as a committee, wanted to be addressed, and they were handled very professionally. All things considered, the recognition within RVIA of the seasonal camping market and how big it is, that was a big deal to us. I’d say, overall, it’s been an incredible first year with RVIA, and I’m very pleased with how smoothly the transition has been going.”
Seasonal Camping Committee member Tim Gage, vice president over park models and cabins for Phoenix-based RV and manufactured home builder Cavco Industries Inc., agrees with Soard’s assessment.
“I think that the direction we’re headed in is going to be definitely positive for our segment of the RV industry,” says Gage, whose company in June introduced a new parkmodels.com website. “And I like the new branding, so to speak, as a ‘Park Model RV.’ That’s really what we are. I think that things have gone well.”
Gage appreciates the “phenomenal support” of Wald, who told WCM that standards inspections were the most pressing priority over the past year in integrating these new companies, which together account for about 3,000 units a year — a fairly small number vs. the RV industry’s estimated total wholesale shipment numbers of 310,000 for 2013. In fact, Wald says the need for consistent and professional standards inspections was one of the main reasons the park model sector wanted to rejoin RVIA in the first place after exiting in 1994.
“Everybody (park trailer builders) was very nervous about how that was going to go,” said Wald. “They had 20 years of experience with third-party inspectors who took a very different approach to the inspection than our inspectors do. Ultimately, the (RVIA) inspectors have found a very high degree of conformance with ANSI 119.5 (the park model standard) among the OEMS.”
Camping used to be synonymous with staying in a tent or RV.
But campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the Lone Star State are finding they can accommodate bigger groups and introduce more people to camping by making park model rental accommodations available to them, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), in a news release.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of parks that offer rental accommodations,” said Schaeffer, whose organization launched a separate website called www.TexasCabinRentals.net to help people find campgrounds with park model rental accommodations.
Park models are 400-square-foot, factory built units that are built on a chassis, like a trailer, but look like cabins or cottages. They come fully furnished with beds and kitchen appliances. Some even have lofts for the kids.
“We’re adding a dozen of them to our park this year,” said Steve Stafford, manager of the North Texas Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Burleson, Texas, outside of Dallas.
Hill Country RV Resort & Cabins in New Braunfels is also adding 11 more park models this year, according to Bryan Kastleman, the park’s managing partner.
Meanwhile, La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages in Austin is adding seven more park model cabins this month, and will likely add more in the future as demand for rental accommodations in RV resorts continues to grow.
“The park model cabin business has truly been a pleasant experience for us,” said park developer Ken Butschek. “I am experiencing about 15% annual growth on RV site rentals, but 30% on my park model rentals. I’m probably going to need 10 more next year.”
The 400-square-foot units, designed and built by Champion/Athens Park Homes, are sought after by families and Winter Texans as well as people on temporary work assignments in the Austin area who don’t want to commit to a six-month lease in an apartment.
“The park models give these people much more flexibility,” Butschek said, adding that Winter Texans who do not have motorhomes or towable RVs also rent them out during the winter season. “This past winter, of my 30 park model cabins, I think I had 15 of them rented out for one to three months by Winter Texans,” he said.
Major campground chains like Jellystone Parks and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) have joined independently owned and operated campgrounds across the country in adding park model RVs as rental accommodations for their guests. Government run campgrounds are also investing in park model RVs, including The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine.
The 93-site campground, which also has 13 park model cabins, occupies 52 acres of an 850-acre mostly wooded scenic area encircling Grapevine Lake. But while the park has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, including a $2.25 million expansion that included construction of 23 new campsites and the installation of seven new park model cabins, park General Manager Joe Moore.
Park model suppliers, such as Champion/Athens, have seen their business continue to grow in recent years. “We have sold to 49 different campgrounds and resorts here in Texas,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of national park model sales for Champion/Athens, adding, “We do a lot of business with campground owners and a lot of them continue to buy from us each year.”
It used to be that to go camping you at least needed a tent and a sleeping bag. But in California and across the country, that’s no longer case.
Privately owned and operated campgrounds are increasingly investing in fully furnished park model cabins and cottages, which enable people without camping equipment to enjoy a camping experience, according to a news release.
“California’s campgrounds are located in some of the most scenic locations in the state, so it makes sense to make them accessible to as many people as possible,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which hosts Camp-California.com, the travel planning website.
Sipe added that all consumers need to do to find campgrounds with rental accommodations is visit Camp-California.com and search for campgrounds using the “Lifestyle Options” function on the website.
“You can check ‘lodging’ to search for campgrounds that offer rental accommodations,” Sipe said.
While park model cabins and cottages are the rental accommodation of choice for most campgrounds, Sipe said campground operators are finding growing demand for other types of rental accommodations, too, including furnished safari-style tents, yurts, Native American-style tipis and RVs.
The San Diego Metro KOA in Chula Vista just received two more park models this month, which it hopes to have ready in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Meanwhile, Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground in Buellton, near Solvang, has doubled its number of park model cottages this year from six to 12 in an effort to keep up with rising demand. But the resort isn’t stopping there. It’s also installing several vintage Airstream trailers this summer, which will be available for rent.
Other campgrounds, for their part, are offering consumers unique camping rental experiences they’re not likely to forget. Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara, for example, has covered wagons arranged in a circle around a campfire pit. The wagons sleep up to four people and are equipped with four cots and an electrical outlet.
The Ventura Ranch KOA in Santa Paula even has furnished Native American style tipis for rent, and the campground is hoping to eventually offer furnished tree houses for rent.
Even government-run campgrounds are getting into the act.
Mount Lassen National Park now offers park model rental cabins.
And Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve in Santee, near San Diego, has installed floating park model cabins, which are available for rent. Seven of the park’s cabins are right on the water’s edge, while three of its cabins are actually floating on the water. The campground is operated by Padre Dam Municipal Water District.
For other ideas on other exciting camping opportunities across California, please visit www.Camp-California.com.