The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) newly formed Recreation Park Trailer (RPT) Technical Subcommittee will hold its inaugural meeting on April 16 in South Bend, Ind.
The new group has the responsibility of monitoring and updating all chapters within the ANSI A119.5 and NEC Article 552 standards for recreation park trailers, also known as park models. It will also review and approve necessary RPT Handbook Updates that will be forwarded to RVIA’s Standards Steering Committee and the RPT Committee for final review and approval, according to a news release.
The RPT Technical Subcommittee is chaired by Jon Walters of Cavco Industries Inc. Committee members include Gary Duncan, Forest River Inc., Park Model Division; Jerry Glenn, Kropf Manufacturing Co.; Jerry Miller, Woodland Park Inc.; Bob Phillips, Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.; Jimmy Sellers, Chariot Eagle Inc.; and John Soard, Fairmont Homes Inc.
At their first meeting, the subcommittee will discuss the scope of the group, review the status of code cycles for the ANSI A119.5 and NEC 552 standards and review various code change proposals and technical updates.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) four technical subcommittees – heating, electrical, plumbing, and fire & life safety – met the week of Oct. 1 in Ft. Myers, Fla., to review and discuss various standards issues, according to a news release.
The subcommittees took action on proposed handbook updates based on the 2011 editions of NFPA 1192, ANSI 12V, and NEC. In addition, the subcommittees reviewed action taken on 2014 ANSI 12V, NEC & NFPA 1192 code change proposals to determine if any comments were necessary to be submitted into ANSI or NFPA.
This also marked the first time that recreational park trailer members were represented on all four technicals to consider Recreational Park Trailer Handbook Update proposals and 2014 ANSI A119.5 code changes up for review and action. All recreational park trailer recommendations resulting from the technical subcommittee meeting will be reviewed by RVIA’s Standards Steering Committee and then be forwarded to the Recreational Park Trailer Committee for final approval.
The following is an excerpt from a story in Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) examining the evolution of the recreational park trailer industry and its new relationship with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). To read the entire article on the WCM website click here.
Campground owners and operators for a long time have had a good handle on “destination camping,” a concept that evolved from the development of the recreational park trailer (RPT) in the 1980s and blossomed through the expansion of traditional travel trailers into much larger units.
Whether they are called “seasonals,” “annuals” or “snowbirds,” the buyers or renters of these units have become a significant factor for both campgrounds and the RV manufacturers.
To be sure, there has always existed a certain disconnect between the campground industry and the RV builders about destination camping, but that may begin to disappear. Destination camping is finally getting the attention it deserves from its chief beneficiary, RV manufacturers.
This attention became apparent at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week June 11-13 in Washington, D.C., where the trade group’s ad hoc Destination Camping Committee embarked on a strategic plan to identify the scope of this rapidly growing segment of the market.
Mike Atkinson, director of lodging for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the lone campground representative on the committee, said this recognition by manufacturers is refreshing. “Having this melding of ideas is a great thing,” he said.
In the long-term, he sees campgrounds who purchase recreational park trailers or park models as rental units for their destination campers will benefit from the marketing dollars and governmental lobbying that RVIA will put into this segment of the industry.
In the meantime, RVIA is playing catch up.
While there is a variety of products that might qualify as destination camping types of accommodations, RVIA doesn’t really know how big this market is or how big it might yet get.
The concept of destination camping, which refers in part to “snowbirds,” RVers who keep their RV on one site all year or campers who rent an RV for a season at a single site, dates back at least to the 1980s and gained traction in the ’90s, according to John Soard, general manager for Fairmont Park Trailers, a division of Fairmont Homes in Nappanee, Ind. “The traditional concept of an RV being used on the road all the time is being circumvented by the customer parking their unit all the time,” he said.
“It’s taken the industry this long to recognize that’s a nice little market segment,” said Soard, who chairs the RVIA’s Recreational Park Trailer Committee and attended the Destination Camping Committee meeting, both of which were held during Committee Week.
Determining the breadth of that market is the focus of a survey the ad hoc committee commissioned through Precision Research, an Arizona-based firm that has done previous work for RVIA. Hard data is needed because everyone has an idea how big that market is but no one knows for certain, Soard says.
To read the entire article click here.
Teton County commissioners in western Wyoming will pay an attorney $150 per hour to oversee a Buffalo Valley property owner’s appeal of a land-use ruling.
Commissioners agreed to hire attorney Mike Barton to handle an appeal hearing for Buffalo Valley RV Resort owner Harry Washut, who contends he should be allowed to bring recreational park trailers onto his property without special approval from county planners, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported. Even if Washut prevails, commissioners said they are not sure he would be allowed to bring recreational park trailers to his property.
Washut is challenging a decision made in March by Planning Director Jeff Daugherty that recreational park trailers are unlike other recreational vehicles in that they are semi-permanent. Recreational park trailers or park models are hard-sided units that sit on a chassis. They are hauled to campgrounds, where they are connected to electric and sewer services.
Commissioners questioned Washut’s appeal because a new set of rules has been put in place that regulate the use of recreational park trailers at campgrounds. Washut asked Daugherty to review the use of recreational park trailers under an old set of rules, which commissioners said would no longer apply to his project.
Attorney Melissa Owens, who is representing Washut, argued that the units are similar to other recreational vehicles and that Washut should be allowed to bring the recreational trailers to his property, regardless of changes to the county’s land-use rules. Owens and attorney David DeFazio filed an appeal in April.
Commissioners agreed to stop planning staff from forcing Washut to remove three recreational park trailers he already has at his campground.
Planning staff said the units were illegally brought to the campground. They held off taking action while Washut had a pending application. When he withdrew it, county staff sent a letter to Washut that threatened legal action if he did not remove the units.
In return, Washut’s attorney promised that he wouldn’t bring any more trailers to the property while the appeal was pending.
Washut has been trying to bring recreational park trailers to his property for two years. He went through several reviews and meetings with county staff and elected officials but was unable to secure approval of his request, through which he initially asked to bring more than a hundred recreational park trailers to his property. Washut faced a stiff challenge from a neighboring ranch owner, who hired a former state attorney general to oppose Washut.
Commissioners were nearing a decision on the project in April, but Washut withdrew his application, saying that he did not believe he needed special permission from the county to bring the units to his land. Washut is the only campground owner still fighting with the county about the trailers.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) have announced an agreement under which park trailer manufacturers will be able to join RVIA as members.
“This is something our members of RPTIA have been talking about for a long time. We feel this is the best time to move forward, and we are excited to be working with RVIA to better the park trailer and destination camping industry,” said Dick Grymonprez, chairman of RPTIA and vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes.
“We are very happy to welcome park trailer manufacturers as RVIA members,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “We look forward to representing them and firmly believe that we can leverage our association services and programs to help these companies achieve their goals.”
RVIA’s board approved the agreement to have park trailer manufacturers join the association at its March 5 meeting in Palm Springs, Calif. In January, the RPTIA board and membership had a vote to suspend operations contingent upon favorable negotiations and the joint acceptance of a workable plan between RVIA and RPTIA that would result in park trailer manufacturers being allowed to join RVIA as voting members.
The agreement reached calls for a two-year trial period. RPTIA will “safe harbor” or “mothball” its association for these two years, pending an agreement of both parties to continue having RVIA represent park trailer manufacturers. An effective date of when park trailer manufacturers can join RVIA will be determined in the coming weeks.
As conditions of park trailer manufacturers joining RVIA:
• Park trailer members will have two representatives on the board.
• RVIA will form a Park Trailer Committee as one of the association’s standing committees.
• RVIA will continue the Destination Camping Committee and its efforts to study and recommend initiatives to grow this market segment.
• RVIA will hire a full-time senior level staff person who will report to Coon. This person will be responsible for providing guidance, managing information, serving as a spokesperson and representing park trailer manufacturers’ best interests.
• ANSI A119.5 will be recognized and accepted as a park trailer standard and will be maintained by RVIA’s Standards Steering Committee. RVIA inspectors will inspect park trailer plants at least twice per year.
• RVIA will continue efforts to have HUD accept the A119.5 as an exception to the Construction Code.
• RVIA’s Government Affairs Department will represent the legislative interests of recreational park trailer manufacturers at both the state and federal levels.
• Park trailers members will be treated the same in terms of participation at the National RV Trade Show, with the understanding that there are size restrictions.
Click here for a 3D tour of a General Coach Canada recreational park trailer.
When Roger Faulkner nine months ago bought General Coach Canada in Hensall, Ontario, from Thor Industries Inc., the first thing he did was stop building traditional travel trailers, choosing instead to focus on recreational park trailers.
”I sold all the equipment so that I can’t ever be tempted to get in to RVs again,” Faulkner told RVBUSINESS.com. ”I have to remain focused in one direction or I’ll fail. The RV business is strong, but as a little guy up in Canada, I couldn’t compete in the RV business with the Forest Rivers and the Thors of the world.”
Faulkner, then-president of Thor’s Citair Inc., dba General Coach Canada, purchased the 60-year-old company from Thor on April 30, 2010, for an undisclosed sum. Thor had purchased the manufacturer of Citation travel trailers, in the early 1980s as one of the early acquisitions of Thor founder Wade F.B. Thompson.
Faulkner’s son, Chris, is vice president of sales and marketing.
Faulkner said that following his purchase, General Coach is establishing itself as a manufacturer of Huron Ridge entry-level, mid-range and high-end park models. ”I can build something for $35,000 and something for $200,000 and all points in between,” he said. ”I custom build so there’s not anything I won’t do as far as park models.”
General Coach, with 110 employees, is a ”preferred vendor” to Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), and Camping in Ontario, a Canadian campground association, and markets Huron Ridge recreational park trailers in Canada and in the northeastern U.S., although U.S. sales have been flagging recently because of the weak American dollar versus the Canadian dollar.
”It’s going as well as can be expected,” Faulkner said. ”It’s wintertime in Canada and not much is happening right now. But we’re doing fine.”
Recreational park trailers built by Silvercrest/Western Homes Division, Woodland, Calif., are earmarked for an upscale oceanfront park model project, Marina Dunes Beach Resort, under development in Marina, Calif.
The Marina Dunes Beach Resort project is the repositioning of an oceanfront recreational vehicle resort into an ocean dunes beach cottage destination, according to an offering statement. The resort is located on the California coast just steps from a dune preserve in Marina, about 10 minutes north of Monterey. The existing lots and new cottage units will be sold to the first 62 buyers.
The target buyer is seeking beach properties for sale in a popular destination with prime beach real estate. They are a young or retired couple, two couples desiring to share the unit or a family that seeks an oceanfront cottage that sleeps up to four comfortably, looking for a way to enjoy all that the Monterey Peninsula offers, at an affordable price. The price of the lot and home will range between $299,000 and $399,000, depending on the size of the lot selected.
A maximum stay of 29 consecutive days is allowed pursuant to the conditional use permit (CUP) that the property is subject to. If a home owner wishes to stay more than 29 consecutive days, then they must leave for one night and can return for another consecutive 29 days. The sponsorship of the project does not see this as a material issue as most second homeowners use their second homes for one to four weeks at a time, go home or to another vacation destination and then return at another time for a similar duration.
This is not a timeshare. Ownership of a lot is exclusive to the owner. Common area amenities will include a clubhouse with game room, billiards, flat screen TV, fireplace, exercise room and kitchen facilities. A large outdoor patio/bbq spaces, a playground, fire pit, bocci ball, putting green and jacuzzi/spa also are planned.
For more information visit www.marinadunesbeachresort.com.
The recreational park trailer segment of the RV industry took its hits just like traditional RV builders during the Great Recession. And its recovery may take a bit longer than the mainstream towable market.
That’s according to William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), who says park models’ customer base is the cause.
”The reason is, our particular consumer is 55 to 70 years of age,” Garpow told RVBUSINESS.com. ”They are facing retirement and their 401(k) took a 35% dip and their house dropped 30% in value. They haven’t got the time to make back the dollars they had before they retire.
”As a consequence, they still may want to get into a park trailer, but they have to do everything they can to build their nest egg while they are still working.”
Garpow reported that shipments of park trailers reached a high of about 12,000 units in 2006 before falling to about 6,0000 units last year. ”Still, that wasn’t as bad as other segments of the industry and now 20% of what we lost has come back,” he said. ”But it’s slow and gradual.”
One thing going for park trailer dealers during the economic turbulence, Garpow said, was that most weren’t under pressure from lenders to bring down large inventories. ”Park trailers traditionally are not inventoried,” he said. ”The products that we are shipping are custom built, so we weren’t affected by that.”
He said RPTIA, with headquarters in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Ga., ”hasn’t lost any significant number of manufacturers,” during the downturn and that business right now ”is steady and it seems to be fairly decent.”
A factor working in favor of the park trailer segment’s recovery is an emphasis on adding park models as rental units at rates several times higher than those charged for regular campground sites by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Jellystone franchiser Leisure Systems Inc. and other parks.
”We identified this has a very strong potential market about 15 years ago,” Garpow said. ”The rental part has really come alive in the last three or four years.”
For campgrounds in designated rural areas that want to expand their park model inventory, Garpow said the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a viable source of guaranteed financing.
A crowd of west-side residents persuaded the Pahrump (Nev.) Regional Planning Commission June 9 to unanimously reject a plan to construct a 620-site recreational vehicle park with recreational park trailers on the southwest corner of Barney Street and Betty Avenue.
Rockingham Realty Nevada 2 LLC requested the rezoning of 60 acres from rural homestead to mixed use for the development. The company also requested a major master plan amendment and conditional use permit, according to the Pahrump Valley Times.
The RPC had reviewed proposed development standards for recreational park trailers in the zoning code. The board considered the development at a March 10 meeting, but continued the item until Rockingham Realty representatives could host a neighborhood meeting June 2 at the Bob Ruud Community Center.
That neighborhood meeting failed to still some complaints. Seven people came to the microphone to voice concerns. Commissioners were also given a petition in opposition, signed by 130 people.
“The potential to become a blight on this community is incredible,” neighbor Lois Mills said.
Mills said the project was tabled so the developers could address issues about density. The only change was coloring the green spaces to make them stand out, she said.
“It’s still too dense to be placed next to a low density housing area. Where’s the buffer?” Mills asked.
She also criticized plans called for 12 acres of commercial development.
“We lived 40 years in Las Vegas. We moved out here to get away from the lights, the inconvenience of all the noise and we wanted some peace and quiet in our elderly years,” Shirley Jewell said.
She said there would be too little visitor parking.
“I have spoken to practically all the people in this neighborhood. Not one of them is in favor of this zoning change. They all want to keep the zoning the way it is,” Harold Jewell said.
He questioned where the water would come from.
“We purchased this property to get away from the congested, overcrowded, cookie-cutter development. This area was all zoned RH 4.5 and was designated on the master plan as low density development. We believed it would provide a quiet, rural setting where we could raise animals,” Christine Leason said.
She estimated 620 units would translate into 6,237 vehicle trips per day.
County planner Steve Osborne said they estimate 10 vehicle trips per day per resident. But RPC member Mark Kimball said that’s for a single-family resident. The intention of this development is to provide facilities for residents that may keep them on the site, Kimball said.
Dave Richards, from CivilWise Services, representing Rockingham Realty, said there’s a lot of open space, with a common area and a yard around each unit. It is intended as an age-restricted community for people 55 years and older, Richards said.
“Pretty much all the amenities an RV park will provide, but this is intended for an extended stay. There will be no campers, motorhomes allowed on the site. They’re specifically park models which are like a little cottage, a small home intended for one or two people,” Richards said.
Issues regarding traffic, drainage and landscaping will be addressed in the design phase, Richards said. A six-foot, decorated, block wall with landscaping on the outside shouldn’t interfere with neighbors’ views of the mountains, he said.
But Richards admitted: “You drive around Pahrump, you look at RV parks that have been put in, they tend to turn into dives or slums.”
But Richards said the lots will be owned by the company and rented or leased to occupants. He said the company intends to have a strict set of requirements.
Kimball noted the same developer outlined plans for the Beverly Park planned unit development, approved in September 2007, in which Rockingham Realty planned to build 864 two-story condominiums on 72 acres across the street. That project was to include amenities like a senior center, a medical center, gas station and golf cart paths.
Marianne Barrett noted that PUD has a three-year time limit, set to expire this year.
“Mr. Richards says that proposed development is going to share facilities with Beverly Park development across the street. I might point out that development does not exist,” Leason said.
Kimball suggested cutting down the density by downsizing the project. He thought 350 RV units would be a more appropriate number.
Kimball said he was originally excited about the Beverly Park project.
“I suspect part of the reason that (rezoning) is about to expire is the difficulty we have in this valley with infrastructure. The cost to bring the promised utilities to that project is probably astronomical at this point,” Kimball said.
RPC member Carrick “Bat” Masterson said he didn’t have a problem with the project, it was the location, too far from the center of town.
“It’s in a rural area and that’s my problem. These people do have the right to the type of life they wanted,” Masterson said.
RPC member Nevada Tolladay said it was nice to have development in tough times, but it’s his belief not all development is good development.
RPC member Norma Jean Opatik felt the 55 and older crowd was more active than proponents said.
“You’re going to have much more activity in this community than what’s being presented,” she said.
Opatik said she anticipates Rockingham Realty requesting an extension of time to develop Beverly Park.
“When people bought property and they see the master plan, they anticipate that master plan will stand,” Opatik said.
Operators of a New Jersey campground and RV dealership have lost their appeal of a case involving the rental and placement of recreational park trailers or park models in the Garden State.
In a recent decision, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appealate Division, sided with the state’s Department of Community Affairs in a case involving the Tall Timbers Property Owners Association Inc., Pleasant Acres Campground Inc. and owners Edward and Deanna Tilton. The court ruled that park model or recreational park trailers fall under the same guidelines as manufactured housing.
On Nov. 30, 2006, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) adopted an interpretive regulation, N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3, which determined that recreational park trailers are subject to the State Uniform Construction Code, adopted under the authority of the Uniform Construction Code Act (UCC Act), N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 to -141. On June 17, 2008, the DCA adopted a new set of regulations, which established standards for the design, manufacture, and installation of recreational park trailers, N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Appellants, who are a seller of recreational park trailers, the owner of a 290-site campground in Sussex, N.J., where recreational park trailers are installed and the owners of a recreational park trailer, challenged the validity of these regulations on three grounds:
- The UCC Act does not confer authority upon the DCA to regulate recreational park trailers under the code.
- The DCA’s regulation of recreational park trailers is pre-empted by the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act (Manufactured Housing Act), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 5401-5426, and the regulations adopted thereunder.
- The DCA adopted these regulations without conducting the analysis required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-16 to -21.
The court heard arguments Feb. 23 and returned its decision April 26, rejecting appellants’ arguments and affirming the validity of N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3 and N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Jay Otto, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA), recently informed his membership of the court’s decision.
In an e-mail to RVBUSINESS.COM, Otto noted, “Tall Timbers has spent a lot of money along with donations from ARVC, NJCOA, and NJRVDA fighting these regulations. However I am not surprised by the outcome. You have people making decisions in creating rules, and the interpretation, who have little knowledge of our industry and how and what recreational vehicles are and how they are used in our state. We have state codes that prohibit residency and domicile in a campground yet they create more restrictive regulations just because they can.
“I don’t believe Tall Timbers will pursue this any further. We in New Jersey will have to abide by the stringent restrictions or not purchase park trailers. The DCA has said in the past that they could regulate travel trailers if they wanted to. There has been a anti-business climate in New Jersey for years and we are now looking forward to that changing with our new governor, Chris Christie.”
Here is an excerpt from the court’s opinion:
The regulatory authority that Title 39 confers upon the Motor Vehicle Commission regarding recreational park trailers is limited to their operation upon highways; it does not extend to their installation in a mobile home park or campground. Thus, N.J.S.A. 39:10-6 requires a recreational park trailer to be registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission before the owner may operate it on a highway, and N.J.S.A. 39:3-43 confers authority upon the Motor Vehicle Commission “to pass upon the construction and equipment of any vehicle . . . with a view to its safety for use in a street or highway[.]” (Emphasis added). However, Title 39 does not require the owner of a recreational park trailer that is simply parked in a mobile home park to register it with the Motor Vehicle Commission, and Title 39 does not confer authority upon the Commission to regulate the safety of a recreational park trailer as a place of human habitation. Therefore, like the Department of Health and Senior Services’ regulation of mobile park owners and operators, the Motor Vehicle Commission’s regulation of the operation of recreational park trailers on public highways is complementary, rather than antagonistic, to the DCA’s regulation of the installation of those trailers in mobile home parks and campgrounds.
The campground business has been the most resilient sector of the travel and tourism business throughout the recession. But it’s not just because campgrounds offer the most affordable vacation option, according to The Daily Exchange, Waterloo, Ontario.
“Campgrounds increasingly offer rental accommodations, so they’re no longer solely dependent on tent campers and RV owners,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), adding that roughly a third of America’s campgrounds now offer park model rental accommodations.
But most campgrounds aren’t building their own rental accommodations from scratch. In most cases, they are ordering factory-built cabins and cottages, which are being delivered to their parks just in time for the camping season.
Many of them look like miniature log or cedar-sided cabins. But these 400-square-foot units are actually recreational park trailers or “park models,” and are technically classified as recreational vehicles.
“They’re completely turnkey,” said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which represents park model manufacturers. “All the campground owner has to do is hook each unit up to the utilities and they’re ready to rent.”
And, perhaps best of all, since “park models” are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they do not require building permits in most jurisdictions, so campgrounds can literally order them over the phone and have them delivered to their parks within a matter of weeks.
“Manufacturers construct these units in factories to conform with approximately 500 safety requirements contained in the National Safety Standard for recreational park trailers,” Garpow said.
Industry insiders see the campground industry’s increasing investments in park models and other rental accommodations as a shrewd business move, particularly given rising fuel costs and the dramatic decline in towable and motorized RV sales in recent years as a result of the recession.
“To a certain extent, the campground industry has insulated itself from the economic downturn by installing rental units,” Profaizer said.
Indeed, by providing rental accommodations, campgrounds are drawing not only tenters and RVers, but anyone who would normally stay in a hotel or motel while they travel.
“With park model cabin rentals, we can appeal to families who don’t have to worry about going out and purchasing an RV or having a tow vehicle or whatever the case may be. They can just get in their car and come to one of our parks,” said Rob Schutter, COO of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.
Campgrounds have been gradually investing in park model cabins and other rental accommodations for many years. But the focus on rentals has intensified in recent years.
In fact, the competition for campground business has become so fierce that park model manufacturers are facing increasing competition from RV manufacturers, who are now marketing some of their own products as rental accommodations for campgrounds.
For more than 13 years, in fact, the Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. in Nappanee, Ind., was the only Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary that produced rental accommodations for campgrounds. Now there are four Thor subsidiaries vying for a piece of the campground rental business, with Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV, Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. and Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc. each competing for a piece of the campground accommodations business along with Breckenridge.
Some of the major campground chains, for their part, are busy working out exclusive arrangements with leading park model manufacturers, which are building custom-designed rental units for their parks.
Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc., for example, is building units for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), while CrossRoads RV recently landed an agreement to build custom designed park models for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Another RV resort developer, Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, is working with Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas, to furnish its resorts with park models.
But while some see the growing demand for rental units in campgrounds as a result of rising fuel costs and declining RV sales, it also reflects significant sociological changes taking place across the United States, Profaizer said.
“Families are increasingly time deprived and the dynamics of the summer vacation have changed,” she said. “People are camping closer to home because they don’t have as much time off to take extended trips across the country. Oftentimes, both parents are working and their kids are often involved in extracurricular activities, which limit their ability to travel.”
In addition, she said, many families are finding that it’s easier and more convenient to rent a cabin for a weekend getaway than to spend their limited free time packing, setting up and taking down tent camping equipment. For others, she said, having a cabin rental gives them an opportunity to experience camping in the great outdoors even if they don’t have an RV.
Schutter of Leisure Systems said campgrounds are also finding that park model rentals are particularly appealing to women, especially mothers. “In our particular system,” he said, “one of the major decision makers is Mom. And Mom finds all the comforts of home in these units. That’s a big selling point.”
Thomas Heneghan, CEO of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., also said park model accommodations have wide market appeal. “In today’s economy,” he said, “the park model extends the outstanding value and experience of the outdoor lifestyle to families who are either unfamiliar with tent camping or RVing or who prefer the conveniences offered by staying in a park model.” He added that park models “allow one to have all of the comforts and conveniences of home with the ability to have a change of scenery and reconnect with family.”
Park model manufacturers, for their part, find it behooves them to pay attention to campgrounds and their growing accommodations needs.
“Many of our manufacturers are literally racing to get these units in place in time for the summer camping season,” said Garpow of RPTIA, adding that the pre-summer rush can be a nail-biter for campgrounds, many of which have already booked the park models they have ordered for this summer.
Such is the case at West Glacier KOA in Glacier, Mont., which just received six park model cabins in late April. “We’re hooking them up to septic and electric utilities right now,” said park co-owner Theresa McClure, adding that five of the six units are already booked May 14, when the park opens for the summer camping season.
“It’s just crazy,” McClure said of consumer demand for park model cabins, which KOA markets as Kamping Lodges. “We could probably put in 12 and they’d all be booked.”
After enduring the biggest downturn in the history of the recreational park trailer business, several recreational park trailer manufacturers are reporting increased sales and renewed interest in their products, which are used by consumers as vacation cottages and by campgrounds as rental accommodations, according to a Recreational Park Trailer Industry Assocation (RPTIA) news release.
“It looks like spring is definitely going to be better than it was last year,” said Tim Howard, president and CEO of the Breckenridge Division of Damon Motor Coach, a Thor Industries Inc. company in Nappanee, Ind., that has long been one of the largest park model manufacturers in the country.
“In the past two months, we have seen a better market, a better demand for products, broadly, than we saw during the same period last year. This is an encouragement, certainly, because it was a long, painful ‘off’ season.”
Granted, Howard said his company’s backlog is still “not anywhere near what it would have been in normal times three years ago,” but it’s moving in the right direction.
“Several park trailer manufacturers are saying their orders are up at least 10% to 15% from where they were a year ago,” said RPTIA Executive Director William Garpow, whose association represents park trailer manufacturers. “Of course, park trailer shipments were down about 50% last year, so we’ve still got a long ways to go to get back where we were three years ago, but at least we’re heading in the right direction.”
Indeed, several Elkhart County, Ind., park trailer manufacturers say they are seeing a sustained increase in orders and inquiries this year, which they say bodes well for the future.
“Business is a little better than last year,” said Dave Burrows, national sales manager for Middlebury, Ind.-based Woodland Park. “It’s definitely not the 2006, 2007 or 2008 numbers. But consumer optimism and demand here over the last two months has started to increase, which is nice to see. Prior to that, dealers were extremely nervous and skittish about putting any product on their lots. Now they’re starting to see traffic coming in. My dealers are more optimistic this year than they were last year.”
“Sales are up nicely,” said Jim Foltz, general manager of Forest River Inc. in Elkhart.
Other companies say they are seeing even stronger business levels.
“So far this year, our business seems to be back to normal for us,” said Curt Yoder, vice president of Kropf Industries Inc. in Goshen, Ind. “There’s definitely much better activity and interest this year compared to last year. We’re running at full capacity now and we hope to continue that.”
Olin Wenrick, president and CEO of Elkhart-based Trophy Homes Inc. said his business is up, too, this year, but is still off about 50% from where it used to be. But Wenrick said he is optimistic about his business prospects this year. “We’re beginning the climb,” he said.
Other park trailer manufacturers across the country are similarly optimistic.
“Our park trailer business year-to-date is up over last year for January, February and March,” said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of marketing for Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas. “We’re encouraged that it’s going to be a better year.”
Grymonprez added that the biggest impediment to improving park trailer sales is the same impediment facing every other industry in the country: limited bank financing.
Bridgeview Manufacturing LLC, a new Elkhart, Ind., recreational park trailer manufacturer that began production in late February, has shipped its first 10 units.
”Our goal is to build a little more upscale park trailer — a stick-and-tin trailer but with more of a residential look,” said President and CEO Jim Brown, who formerly worked for Starcraft Inc., before serving as president of Elkhart-based park trailer builder Hy-Line Enterprises Holdings LLC.
Bridgeview is operating with 28 employees out of a 35,000-square-foot plant on Elkhart’s north side building park trailers in 15 floorplans in 38- to 42-foot lengths with up to four slideouts and a fiberglass sidewall option.
Features include residential furniture and appliances, 8-foot ceilings, Corian countertops, double crown molding, indirect lighting and staggered cabinets. ”We are looking for the feel of a $200,000 motorhome,” Brown said.
With options, the average price of a Bridgeview recreational park trailer will be about $26,500, Brown said.
Bridgeview has signed 12 dealers and will focus its sale efforts predominantly in the Northeast and Southeast. ”The very first unit we built, we delivered to Canada,” Brown said. ”We will expand sometime early next quarter into the Southwest.”
The company will retail its units through dealers, Brown said, rather than selling factory direct to consumers or campgrounds and resorts. ”Several of the RV dealers that we are going through have their own parks or are park-affiliated,” Brown noted.
Manufacturers have long touted the merits of investing in recreational park trailers or “park models” as rental accommodations, which can generate anywhere from two to five times as much annual income as a typical RV site, according to a news release.
But while there’s no question that these units can generate significant revenue, private parks that go into the accommodations business also encounter additional costs, according to park operators who discussed the cost, management and marketing of park models Jan. 13 during CalARVC’s Education Day at Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort and Marina in California.
“Houskeeping has been a challenge,” said Michael Gelfand, president of Terra Vista Management, which rents 24 park models at Newport Dunes.
Gelfand said his company initially rented park models without linens, but later switched to a daily maid service, which he offers free of charge to his guests “to minimize the thrashing of the units.”
Gelfand said renters tend to take better care of their park model when they know someone will be coming in to clean the unit each day. Housekeeping staff can also alert management if the guest breaks something or causes damage to the unit so that they can be held accountable to pay for any damages before they leave. In this sense, the value of having a daily maid service goes far beyond that of simply making the beds or cleaning the unit, he said.
But not every park operator sees a need to offer daily maid service.
The Fountain of Youth Spa RV Resort in Niland, Calif., finds it worthwhile to provide weekly maid service for its seven park models, which it rents on a weekly and monthly basis, said Jolene Wade, the resort’s managing partner.
John Croce, managing member of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Team RV Management LLC, whose properties include Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging in Groveland, Calif., said his guests do not really expect or require daily maid service. However, he does provide linens for the park’s 26 park models and eight yurts, which collectively require about $30,000 worth of linens.
Each unit requires at least two sets of sheets, blankets, bedspreads and pillows, not only in case of loss or damage, but because it’s not possible or practical for park operators to quickly wash and replace the same set of linens in units when one set of guests leave at 11 a.m. and the next guests arrive soon after that. “At peak season in Yosemite Pines, we may turn 20 or 25 units a day,” Croce said.
Park operators who have large numbers of park models will also need to invest in commercial grade washers and dryers. “You can run maybe three to six park models and use your existing laundry. But once you pass six, you need commercial laundry equipment,” Croce said.
The park’s housekeeping staff needs will also vary, depending on the season, Croce said. In peak season at Yosemite Pines, for example, Croce has as many as 12 people handling housekeeping duties. “Sometimes we only need a half a dozen. Sometimes we need a lot more,” he said.
Croce added that park models should also be set up in “little villages,” Croce said, partly to keep them separate from transient RVers and partly to make it easier for housekeeping staff to maintain the units.
But while private parks take different approaches with maid service, park operators say it’s imperative to invest in high-quality units that can withstand wear and tear. “Don’t go for a stripped down version,” Gelfand said, because they won’t hold up.
Gelfand, Croce and Wade also offered other tips in terms of what park operators should ask for when they order park models for rental use:
- Choose laminate flooring if possible. It’s more durable than linoleum, which can tear, and it’s easier to clean than carpeting.
- Equip the units with instant hot water heaters. Standard water heaters are often too small for rental use.
Park operators who invest in durable units will be glad they did. Croce said he’s had units last nearly eight years at very high occupancy rates at Yosemite Pines and he doesn’t yet see a need to replace them. “I think their lifespan can go on for years if you maintain them,” he said.
Maintenance, from Croce’s standpoint, includes removing all of the furniture and thoroughly cleaning each unit once a year and replacing or repairing anything that is broken or needs attention. “In the mountains, you have to reseal the cedar every three or four years,” he said.
In terms of marketing park model rentals, Gelfand, Croce and Wade all said they generate most of their leads and bookings online.
“It’s essential to have online reservations,” Croce said, adding that parks need to invest in their websites and make it easy for consumers to find them easily through Web searches. “The more you get out there (on the web), the easier it is for people to find you,” he said.
Croce added that online reservations can generate cash flow for the park months before the guests actually arrive. “We’ve done great in February and had an empty park,” he said, adding, “If you have limited marketing dollars, invest in your website.”
Gelfand, for his part, said most of his marketing is also web-based. However, Gelfand has also hired a public relations consultant who promotes Newport Dunes in newspapers and magazines.
Gelfand and Croce also said that one of the key merits of park models is that they can turn “dysfunctional” campsites into moneymakers. In fact, Croce said the park models and yurts at Yosemite Pines generate as much income as all of the RV sites in the park combined. But despite their revenue generating potential, Croce recommended that park operators start with a small number of park models. “Start with two or three and let demand determine what you need,” he said.
At one point during the discussion, Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) asked the park operators attending CalARVC’s education Day if any of them had regrets about investing in park models. Not one park operator raised his hand.
The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) reminds manufacturers, suppliers and campground owners located in the West to sign up for its recreational park trailer seminar scheduled for Jan. 13 at Newport Dunes RV and Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach, Calif.
A panel of park owners, operators and vendors will cover these issues:
- Pros and cons of renting park trailers for vacation use, including marketing, usage policies, housekeeping issues and maintenance.
- Pros and cons of long-term leases for seasonal/annual use, including marketing, policies on out-buildings, landscaping, age limits and upkeep.
- How and whether to purchase or lease and financing considerations.
- John Pentacost, an attorney with Hart, King & Coldren, who will speak on the state’s eviction law for park trailers.
- Brad Harward of California Housing and Community Development, who will speak on the state’s laws regulating park trailers, from park trailer design to installation.
- William Garpow of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), who will provide an update on industry trends, new products and innovations.
The fee is $75 for the first attendee and $65 for each additional attendee.
Lunch will include brief introdutions from the program sponors. A tour of the resort’s park trailers also will be available.
For more information, contact CalARVC at (530) 885-1624.