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.”