Best Parks in America announced the addition of four new affiliated resorts situated in “strategic locations” across the U.S., according to a press release.
The new affiliates are Elite Resorts at Citrus Valley, Orlando, Fla.; Strawberry Park, Preston, Conn.; Far Horizons 49er Village in Plymouth, Calif., and Far Horizons Tucson Village RV Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
“Four parks in four corners of the U.S. are terrific,” said David Gorin, Best Parks founder and president. “Best Parks in America is thrilled to add a park in one of the nation’s leading tourist towns, Orlando, Fla. Adding first Best Park affiliates in Connecticut and northern California and a new park in Tucson is a giant step forward for the Best Parks network.”
He added, “We hope these new Best Parks will catch the attention of park owners in other key markets and that this is the vanguard of a wave of new network affiliates in key destination areas.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has just completed a major overhaul of GoCampingAmerica.com to “help consumers easily find campgrounds and RV parks around their destinations,” according to a press release.
With its newly enhanced search function, consumers can now choose from over 90-plus campground features along with a location-based search. GoCampingAmerica.com also features photos, videos and online campground reviews by other consumers, allowing travelers to get a feel for campgrounds of interest before making reservations.
“Privately owned and operated campgrounds are more likely to offer park model cabins, yurts and other rental units to accommodate people who don’t have an RV and don’t want to sleep in a tent,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of ARVC. “We want people to know that there are other options out there and we’re making it easier to find them.”
Bambei added that while state and national parks are popular locations for camping, privately owned and operated campgrounds, RV parks and resorts usually offer more amenities and services, such as Wi-Fi and cable television service, as well as bigger campsites, swimming pools, game rooms and other recreation facilities. Many privately owned campgrounds also offer organized family activities and special events.
ARVC recently launched an Internet marketing campaign to promote GoCampingAmerica.com through the Frommer’s travel website as well as Travora, which operates travel information websites across the U.S. and overseas.
“We’re trying to raise the profile of GoCampingAmerica.com and let people know that there are literally thousands of campgrounds across the country that are eager for their business,” Bambei said.
How public agencies can keep parks and campgrounds open through private recreation management partnerships is the focus of a day-long conference on Nov. 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The event is being planned by Warren Meyer, the president of National Forest Recreation Association. It takes place from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort.
The day-long conference is being held in conjunction with the association’s 63rd Annual Conference and Trade Show, which will be held in Scottsdale Nov. 2-4.
“For 30 years, the U.S. Forest Service has seen radically declining recreation budgets, with far greater reductions than places like California is facing, but has not had to close parks and has kept most of their recreation areas well-maintained,” Meyer stated in a news release. “Their innovation was to take advantage of the substantially lower costs of private operators to run their campgrounds and picnic areas.
“For the last couple of years, it has frustrated me to no end to watch states like California and Arizona — really almost every state in the country — let some parks accumulate deferred maintenance while other are closed when it simply is not necessary,” he added.
Topics to be discussed include:
• History of recreation public-private partnerships (PPP), including current examples of parks participants may contact or visit.
• Case studies from the U.S. Forest Service, the world’s largest user of recreation PPPs.
• Advantages of recreation PPPs, and pitfalls to be avoided.
• Typical division of responsibilities between the public and private partners in these contracts.
• Best practice contract structure and contracting process.
• Supporting legislation and relationships between agencies.
• Warren Meyer, president of the National Forest Recreation Association, the trade group of private park operators in the U.S. Forest Service. He is also CEO of Recreation Resource Management, one of the largest private park management companies in the country, and the proprietor of ParkPrivatization.com, the leading online journal of Recreation PPP news and issues.
• Len Gilroy, director of government reform at Reason Foundation where he is a certified urban planner who researches privatization, government reform, transportation, infrastructure and urban policy issues. Gilroy is the editor of the world’s most respected newsletter on privatization, Privatization Watch, and is the editor of the widely read Annual Privatization Report.
Due to generous donations from sponsors, the cost to participate in the conference is $100 per person, but public officials and agency employees may attend for free. Click here to learn more about the entire conference.
For more information, call Meyer at (602) 569-2333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is a position statement by National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) President Paul Bambei on the acceptance of public parks as non-voting members.
The purpose of this email is to clarify ARVC’s position on its acceptance of public parks as non-voting members.
During a Special Called Board meeting that took place on 6/7/11, permission was granted to pursue a marketing campaign targeted at all non member parks.
The motion that was approved, as excerpted from the minutes of this 6/7 Board meeting that was shared with all BOD members afterwards, read as follows: “5. Request Board approval for remainder of monies from VA building sale (after $300k investment sic,PB) to be allocated with Excom approval for two- phase direct mail membership drive: 1. In states with no formal campground membership organization; 2. Will also work with existing state partnerships on a second direct mail piece to increase memberships in affiliated states and co-operating states or in non affiliated states that may have a formal campground membership organization.
A motion was made to approve the remainder of the monies from the VA building sale to be used as operational funds for the association for 2011. It was seconded and passed.”
In essence, permission was granted to market to all non member parks. There was no distinction between publics and privates, because ARVC Bylaws have for many years welcomed public parks, ie Under Section 2, Subsection D. Non Voting Membership: “Public Sector Member shall be a public agency operating a campground, RV park or cabin facility on the federal, state or local level.”
This was further reinforced in a 1994 Memorandum of Agreement (to see the agreement click here) between ARVC and the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), the same organization we engaged with this past summer when they wanted to take part in the non member free trial. Clearly, the former Chairman of ARVC, Conrad Dumke from Florida, understood the importance of collaboration over dissention back in 1994 and acted to solidify the two organizations.
Given all the above, ARVC has a bound duty to accept public parks as non voting members and for the good of the camping consumer, wants to live by the principles established in that MOA written 17 years ago, the ARVC bylaws, and the Board approval granted 6/7/11.
Today, there are several states enjoying the fruits of collaboration. California, Colorado, Maine, Virginia, and Maryland are among them. Just this past weekend, Mari Garland, co-President of the Colorado Association (CCLOA) and owner of Junction West Campground, enjoyed wonderful overflow business referred by her nearby state parks during a huge wine festival in her home city of Grand Junction, CO, because she decided to work with, not against, the public parks in her state.
However, we know 50 years of poor relations in other states might take time to heal and doesn’t happen overnight, if ever. For this reason, we have stated over and over, if your state chooses not to collaborate with public parks, we at ARVC will respect that wish. We will not interfere by inviting public parks as direct members if you are an Affiliated State and do not wish to accept publics, and we will stay out of your business on this sensitive issue. To date, we have received such requests from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, New York, and Florida. If you wish to be added to this list, please let us know and we will respect your decision totally.
I hope this clarifies ARVC’s long-standing position. Regardless of your state’s provincial position, what matters most is that we continue to have clear and positive communication on this, and all issues facing our industry.
I look forward to a continued working relationship, communicating always, so that our industry and our Association moves forward for the benefit of all its members.
And now, a final word from ARVC Chairman, David L. Berg:
The private park just up the street that belongs to your state association and/or ARVC is also in direct competition with you, yet there are no issues of them paying dues to your state or national association. Why? Because we are all in the same business, camping. Some private parks have lots of amenities, and some have few, but there is a customer for every type of park. Because you do what you have to do to make your park the very best it can be, and advertise wisely and promote camping and your park. Your goal is filling your sites with happy campers.
If we ignore public parks they are not going to go away, you can be certain of that. Yet, if we continue to allow them in our national association as we have for so many years, we can work together whenever possible, and not only collaborate on promotion of camping, but we can show them where they need to raise their rates to cover all expenses.
This is becoming much easier with the times we are in, in fact, in Rhode Island, they have raised their rates twice in the last two years and are now above that of many private parks due to state budgets being slashed. A site in Rhode Island public parks is now $35 a night plus the $10 booking fee for the first night total cost of $45 for a non resident, and $35 for every night thereafter, and that is for a site with no services! Now that is good for private campgrounds!
States like Maine and others have had all of their state parks as members of their state association for many years. Those parks pay the same exact dues as all of the private parks do. That has provided a great boost for our dues income as well as improving our working relationship. We have partnered on projects and have even had free passes to state park recreations areas (non camping areas) given to all of our private member parks to give to our customers to save them entrance fees.
This working relationship has been a win win situation for us both. We got past the days of old, set aside our differences, and realized that working together for the common goal of promoting camping was good for everybody involved.
The executive committee of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) convened Thursday (Sept. 15) and decided to ask the board of Campground Owners of New York (CONY) to reconsider its decision to leave ARVC.
ARVC’s request appears in a letter sent today to CONY Chairman Scott Sherwood, ARVC Chairman David L. Berg told Woodall’s Campground Management.
CONY’s board met Monday and voted 11-2 with one abstention to un-affiliate with ARVC. (It was previously reported that the vote was unanimous.) ARVC announced CONY’s decision in a news release issued late Wednesday. Disagreements over ARVC’s willingness to offer free trial memberships to state parks as well as discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in multiple states were the main reasons for CONY’s un-affiliation decision.
“We had lengthy discussions about the CONY situation,” Berg continued. “Our No. 1 goal is to do everything within our power to continue a strong working relationship between ARVC and all its affiliates, including CONY. I see great value in doing whatever it takes to reverse that decision for the betterment of all our memberships.”
Berg said ARVC has several options, depending upon how Sherwood and CONY respond to today’s letter.
Berg also contacted CONY Executive Director Donald G. Bennett Jr., and asked him to reconsider his resignation from the ARVC board as an at-large member. He said Bennett said he was happy with his decision and would not withdraw it.
In such situations, the ARVC chairman has the authority, pending board ratification, to name a replacement to fill an unexpired board term. Berg said he has some names already under consideration and hopes to name a successor before the ARVC conference in Savannah, Ga., in late November.
Berg stressed that “none of us in leadership in ARVC is accepting” CONY’s departure and he hopes the decision can somehow be reversed.
Berg said he is unaware of any other states that are considering similar action to CONY’s.
Campground Owners of New York (CONY) is preparing to end its affiliation with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), citing disagreements over ARVC’s willingness to offer free trial memberships to state parks as well as discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in multiple states.
According to a news release issued by ARVC, CONY’s decision caught ARVC by surprise, since ARVCs board of directors had specifically given states the ability to “opt out” of both initiatives.
“This is called working together at the state and national level, as it should be,” said ARVC Chairman David L. Berg.
The CONY board met Monday (Sept. 12) and after considerable discussion voted unanimously to leave ARVC, Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY executive director, told Woodall’s Campground Management.
“ARVC’s new initiatives were deemed by the CONY board to be in direct conflict of the CONY mission statement,” Bennett explained.
The CONY board deemed that ARVC’s membership offer to state parks would tend to harm private enterprise within the Empire state.
In New York there are 118 state-run campgrounds which comprise 16,000 campsites, Bennett said, not counting two federal campgrounds and between 25 and 30 municipally owned and operated campgrounds. He estimated that 65% of state park money comes from general fund.
CONY board members felt, as do some other state associations and park operators, that the state park offer was simply funding their competition.
“I don’t think this scab had to be picked off,” Bennett said.
Noting that ARVC currently reaches just 3,000 of the nation’s some 8,000 private campgrounds, Bennett added, “There was a lot of room to grow in our own sector rather than jump on this (state park membership).”
Bennett also subsequently resigned immediately as an at-large member of the ARVC board. He had chaired ARVC’s governance committee.
CONY had been a longtime ARVC member and has around 200 RV parks and campgrounds in its membership.
The CONY board will refund ARVC membership dues for the coming year it has already collected, Bennett noted.
The CONY board also encouraged CONY members to rejoin ARVC on their own if they desire, Bennett added.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody, but we have heard loud and clear from a lot of members who want to have a choice. I think a prudent campground owner would belong to both,” Bennett said.
In the meantime, the CONY board has spent considerable time on strategic long-range planning to help improve the organization, Bennett said. “We will not spend time and resources on things that do not support our organization’s mission statement.”
More from ARVC release
In the ARVC release, Berg said ARVC turned down a request by New York State Parks to participate in a trial membership in August after learning of CONY‟s discomfort with the proposal. ARVC has also been sensitive to CONY‟s concerns about the ramifications of having the national association offer membership discounts to campground companies with multiple parks in various states across the country.
“ARVC openly welcomed states to “opt in‟ or “opt out‟ without pressure of any kind, based solely on the fact that the state would receive increased park members and dues,” Berg stated. “In fact, when the motion was passed to authorize ARVC to negotiate this concept with multi park/multi state operators, it was clearly stated in the motion to ‘only pursue deals that are financially beneficial to both state and national.’”
Berg noted that CONY will remain a member of ARVC in good standing through the rest of the year and said they hoped CONY‟s board would reconsider its decision during that time.
Berg also noted the numerous benefits CONY members receive as a result of their ARVC membership, including 20% to 30% discounts on supplies from Sherwin Williams, John Deere, Staples, Home Depot and other companies.
“Recently, we’ve added new benefits, such as wholesale pricing on the entire Skyline park model trailer line, which allows you to save thousands of dollars on just one purchase, most-favored-nation pricing on LP gas, and, soon to be announced, a simple, no-nonsense national blanket license fee agreement with the music companies to save money and cease, once and for all, the constant harassment.
“We are also currently working on several other national discount programs, such as Waste Management and satellite TV services with Dish Network, with pricing such as the motel industry enjoys, that can save our members considerable money as well,” Berg said.
ARVC has also made other improvements, which include hiring a nationally respected law and lobby firm in Washington, D.C., to monitor the daily flow of national and state legislation in New York and elsewhere that affects the private park business, and designing an entirely new Outdoor Hospitality Education Program, which ARVC will unveil at its annual conference in Savannah, Ga., later this year.
Private park associations in at least two states — New York and Missouri — have said “no” to a plan by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to offer free memberships for the remainder of this year to state parks.
The objections to ARVC’s plan surfaced in an informal survey conducted last week by Woodall’s Campground Management. Other states apparently are leaning against backing the plan as well.
Ironically, the associations in those two states are headed by men who sit on the ARVC board of directors.
ARVC’s Executive Committee and board of directors sanctioned the six-month trial membership offer to all non-members in early June. ARVC CEO Paul Bambei subsequently announced the ARVC plan.
“Times are changing, and we need to look to the public parks not as competitors, but as industry partners since we are typically viewed as one in the same by camping consumers and we also share many of the same marketing and government affairs objectives,” Bambei stated in a July 8 news release.
ARVC bylaws have permitted public park membership for many years, and while some states, such as Maine, California and Vermont, have aggressively pursued public park membership, the national association remained relatively quiet. In June, however, ARVC launched a mail campaign designed to attract non-members to the association by hailing its multiple benefits, and many have taken notice, ARVC noted in a news release.
“We’ve already received several inquiries from both non-member private parks as well as public parks that see the value of ARVC membership, and we plan to make ARVC membership available to them on a six-month trial basis,” Bambei said, adding that the offer has been warmly received by top representatives of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).
Opposition Surfaces Quickly
However, within weeks, private park owners in New York and Missouri expressed their disapproval of the plan.
During a conference call in the third week of July, the 19-member board of the Campground Owners of New York (CONY) voted not to honor the ARVC request, said Donald G. Bennett Jr., CONY executive director. CONY’s bylaws do not allow for a state park to become a member in any class of membership, Bennett said.
Beyond that, from a practical standpoint, Bennett noted, the last half of the year is when many private state associations assemble their campground directories for the coming year. Any state park that would join for the second half of this year would be added to the printed directory for 2012 and would be in that directory all year, even if the park subsequently decided not to re-up for the coming year.
“It’s easy to put someone on a website and then take them off. Once they’re in a printed book, you can’t take that back,” he said.
Bennett surmises that, aside from conference calls, few state associations have had a chance to meet or poll their members on the ARVC plan.
In Missouri, the executive committee of the Missouri Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (MOARC) voted not to accept state and federal parks into their association.
“The MOARC board stands behind our mission statement to serve the special needs of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Missouri in order to provide the public with the highest quality camping experience,” Larry Helms, MOARVC president and owner of Boiling Springs Campground in Dixon, Mo., stated in an e-mail dated July 24 sent to Bambei and other ARVC officials.
“We support all private parks in Missouri and we believe MOARC can benefit the state more effectively by helping private parks improve and expand as privately owned businesses in the tourism industry.”
Many state associations don’t hold formal meetings during the summer months so a formal decision by many other states has yet to be made.
To read the entire article, click here.
The following is an in-depth look at the shifting relationship between the nation’s state parks and private sector parks. It is the second in a series authored by Steve Bibler, editor for Woodalls Campground Management.
The ever-changing face of the nation’s financially pressed state parks took on a few new wrinkles this summer with the most dramatic impact in Florida, where controversy erupted over the state of Florida’s announced plans to expand camping into some of the state’s favorite parks, and Minnesota, where a startling budget crisis prompted the shutdown of state government and all of the Gopher State’s state-run parks for a time this summer.
And while states like Maine, Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado made some news as well, opening privately run campgrounds in state parks certainly turned out to be a hot-button issue in Florida. “Not a good idea,” said hundreds of indignant citizens.
Responding to the public outcry, Florida Gov. Rick Scott put the kibosh on plans to consider bringing concessionaire-operated, RV-friendly campgrounds to Honeymoon Island State Park and ordered further analysis of the state proposal overall.
The move encouraged many members of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC), which had lobbied the governor against the plan.
“I think it’s the right move,” said association Executive Director Bobby Cornwell. “Not to say it won’t happen, but it will go through a more stringent review process. We’re pleased with the additional review and the possibility it may not happen at all.”
“The mass of the people won this one,” Cornwell said, conceding that Florida ARVC was just one of many voices united in “unparalleled and unexpected opposition” to the plan. Hearings were held on plans at four state parks. Cornwell submitted verbal or written opposition at each one.
As for the future, Cornwell is uncertain how this summer’s bru-ha-ha will affect relations between his association and the state. “I don’t know how it will affect that relationship. 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.”
The message, according to Cornwell, is that state parks “don’t need to expand too quickly where it could hurt the private sector. If they do (build campgrounds), they should make sure it’s more rustic in nature, primitive tent camping. That would be great because it gets more people camping and gradually moving up to RVs.”
To read the entire story click here.
The ARVC Business Forum convened June 7-8 in Alexandria, Va., to begin working on what it feels could become the basis for a five-year strategic plan for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Chaired by Ann Emerson, vice president and publisher of Woodall Publications Corp., the Forum drew key representatives from the RV park and campground sector who serve in an advisory role to the national association.
Their assignment coming in was to begin working on the strategic plan to move ARVC forward, suggest where realistically ARVC could be down the road and to map out strategic planning goals and timetables.
Emerson and Paul Bambei, ARVC president and CEO, ran the meeting.
“The input from Business Forum members in crafting a five-year Strategic Financial Plan for ARVC was phenomenal,” Emerson told Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). “We are fortunate to have members who are willing to share their business and industry insight and knowledge to ensure the growth and success of ARVC. Paul Bambei has shown great leadership in steering the association and the Business Forum on finding non-dues, revenue-generating opportunities. It was a great meeting and I appreciate the time the Business Forum members devoted to this important topic.”
In summary, the gist of the meeting was to identify opportunities for ARVC – increase membership, find non-dues revenue opportunities and look at partnerships. Members also talked about the need to make changes to the Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo to better meet member needs and to make it more affordable so more members can attend.
“Many of the things in the five-year plan are just extensions of business principals that have already been put in place but will now be managed and improved upon,” Bambei told WCM, who declined to discuss many Business Forum specifics until he’s had a chance to report back to the full ARVC board.
Bambei said the five-year plan should not be taken lightly. “That is a practice every company I have worked for has done religiously. There was no long-term strategic financial planning that was leading ARVC down the right path,” he said.
“We spent about a day and a half really pouring through the assumptions how our revenue, expense and capital expenditures are related to ARVC. We tried to frame it in a way where each line item was forecast over a five-year period using percentage drivers we all felt comfortable with and were realistic. It’s a great exercise because you get a variety of thoughts and opinions on a multitude of things that drive our business.”
“The other thing that I think is really well-timed for ARVC is the board has initiated strategic committees that are delving into some really important issues. Hopefully that opens the doors to allow better relations between ARVC and the states to go after business in tandem. It has to be in tandem. We’re really forcing the issue. We’re trying to build the bridge and make it rock solid so that partnership builds and thrives.”
One of the basic goals of the Business Forum was discussion on how ARVC can grow its membership from the present 3,300 park members. It’s about a third of the nearly 10,000 privately owned campgrounds in the U.S., and Forum members agree ARVC should find a way to attract new members.
“We weren’t passive about it,” Bambei said. “Everybody felt to be a thriving organization we need to grow. We’re not going to sit on our hands.”
Toward that end, Bambei says ARVC is currently doing some promotion among non-members. “Many of the 10,000 are in non-affiliated states. We want to go directly and try to attract them,” he explained. “We want to build a base in each state and help them form their own state organization that eventually becomes affiliated with ARVC.”
Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of governmental affairs, will be the point man on that effort but all ARVC staff will join in, Bambei said.
Further, ARVC is trying to build membership in affiliated states as well.
“We’re aggressively going after it right now,” he added. “We’re involved in a non-member campaign. A direct mail piece is being mailed to thousands of campground owners throughout the U.S. We know thousands of them are out there and we’re attempting to grab them. It comes down to educating them on the benefits of ARVC, which I maintain is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.”