In his younger years, Bruce Sugarek was a welder in the oil fields in South Texas. At 82, he is now retired – well sort of, the Bee County Bee-Picayune reported.
“I am more tired than retired,” he said chuckling.
He is among the numerous other residents now providing housing for the workers of the Eagle Ford Shale industry. Throughout this area, small RV parks have popped up in once vacant lots.
In Saturday’s Bee-Picayune, five companies listed RV parks with open spots in the area. County Judge David Silva said he has seen these parks sprouting up throughout the county.
“You can’t drive between Beeville and anywhere that you won’t see RV parks and signs,” Silva said. “Some people have them next to their houses and some of them don’t. Everybody seems to be getting in on the action.”
Ron Fritz, with the county’s community affairs department, said that since January, 14 new RV parks have been built. This is up from, well, zero during the past few years.
“This is something new to Bee County,” Fritz said. “These things are popping up like mushrooms because of the people working in the Eagle Ford Shale kingdom.”
The county first began seeing the influx of people at the first of the year when the Eagle Ford drilling kicked into gear.
“The whole problem was the lack of housing in our area,” Fritz said. “Guys were staying all over and driving over here to work in the field.”
For some, the opportunity to cash in on the need for housing was too tempting to pass up. Bruce Munoz opened his RV park off U.S. Highway 59 only a few months ago and it’s already full.
“I have people still calling me,” he said. “I don’t have any more spaces open.”
That could change though.
“That is why I am thinking about in the future making it bigger,” he said. “But that is in the future.”
All of his residents are oil field workers but he hopes that when the boom subsides, he will be able to continue operating the park — just with a different clientele.
For 14 weeks, Doug and Linda Larson waited.
They, along with many others, piled sandbags along the Missouri River shoreline, according to a report by the Yankton (S.D.) Press and Dakotan. They watched the water rise as Gavins Point Dam releases were increased to 160,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Finally, they held their breath and said prayers as the floodwaters lapped at the property just below the mobile home they bought after evacuating their residence closer to the shore.
“That was the meanest looking river I’ve ever seen,” Doug said. “It moved so fast that it was scary, and you didn’t want to get near it.”
Now, the owners of Larson’s Landing RV Park west of Yankton are beginning to clean up the aftermath of the summer flood since the flows from Gavins Point are at a much more normal 40,000 CFS.
“For 14 weeks we sat here not knowing if we had anything,” Linda said. “Then it started going down and we’d say, ‘Oh, that’s still there, and this is here.’ It gave us some light. But 14 weeks of not knowing what’s happening is way too long.”
The barricade of sandbags was eventually overcome by water, and the earth behind it was left pockmarked. Most of those holes have since been filled in with sand. A pile of trees, mobile home decks and sandbag material awaits disposal. Tens of thousands of sandbags still line the shore, despite volunteer efforts to get rid of them.
“Clean-up has been slow, but it’s coming along,” Doug said. “Several retired campers (who live in the park) are working every day. I can’t believe how much that helps, and I’m really grateful for it.”
The Larsons are in the process of receiving a loan from the Small Business Administration to get things up and running by next summer.
“It’s not quite what we were looking for, but it sure as heck is a lot better than nothing,” Doug said. “We’re glad we got it, and we’ll work with it.”
Many changes are in store for the property, he stated. Eighteen mobile home pads near the shore that once hosted long-term residents will not be replaced.
“That’s one of the things that really hurt — having to move these people out who had homes here for 18 years,” Doug said. “That really gave me some lumps in my throat.”
Those permanent pads will become camping spots instead.
“We’ll change this over to a summer-type operation rather than year-round,” Doug said.
Another change will involve reconfiguration of the marina area. Also, much of the beach that was once enjoyed by residents has been washed away.
“Before people could go wade in the water,” Doug said. “They won’t be able to do that anymore.”
One of the biggest surprises for the Larsons was the number of trees downed by beavers.
“It was like a smorgasbord,” Linda said. “They’d eat one off until it tipped over and then move on to the next one.”
They hope that part of the park will be restored by Memorial Day.
“We’ll have all the existing RV pads back in operation,” Doug said. “But we’re still out of all this area that had mobile homes. That will be a year-long project to redo.”
Linda added, “It’s exciting to see things coming together. You always have to look forward. That’s what we’re doing.”
RV parks in Yuma, Ariz., are gearing up for the season, cleaning out the pool and getting ready for the thousands of winter visitors expected to start arriving this month.
An estimated 84,940 winter visitors made the trek to Yuma last year, about 1,000 more than the previous season and not far from the record 85,950 in 2007-08, the Yuma Sun reported.
While many own their homes or choose hotels, thousands stay in Yuma’s nearly 100 RV parks and resorts, which offer well over 23,000 rental spaces.
An informal survey of parks indicates that the number of winter visitors will stay on track this year and park managers are predicting a good season, if not better than last year. For example:
• Friendly Acres RV Park in Yuma had only 20 vacancies left in the 450-space park this week. “We’re looking good. We’re a family-owned park and a lot of people come back year after year,” said Cynthia Crisp, office assistant.
• Pioneer RV Park in Wellton reported that all but three of its 326 spaces had already been reserved, with a few spaces left open for “in-and-out” visitors.
• West Sands RV Park in Yuma is expecting to be full again this year, with its 156 spaces already reserved.
• Sunset Palm RV Park in Yuma also reported that the park was almost full with only a few of its 117 spaces left.
This is all good news for Yuma’s economy as winter visitors shop local stores and patronize restaurants as well as play golf, enjoy the city’s amenities and support community events.
Winter visitors also regularly volunteer their time at charitable and nonprofit organizations, schools and the hospital.
However, Yuma Stats is predicting “a record year for attendance but with proclivity toward less per-capita spending.”
“I suppose that’s better than no visitors so let’s hope more in general, spending a little less each, is enough to bring revenues up above past records,” said Paul Shedal, a professional statistical analyst and owner of Yuma Stats.
The firm’s annual September survey of park managers produced “mixed results.”
“Comments from 20 park managers show reservations about average but not below past year levels at this point. No problem,” Shedal said.
“What is troubling are several reports of fewer inquiries. These are the folks who haven’t committed to a lease or made a reservation.”
Shedal also noted a new generation of visitors last year. He described them as “bargain-minded but willing to spend for good value.”
“Looking at multiple trends, visitor spending during early (last) season was subdued but finally came on par starting in February.”
In the meantime, the Yuma Visitors Bureau is starting to the see the “first wave” of winter visitors, many of whom regularly make reservations at RV parks for the next year before they leave in the spring.
“Every day we’re seeing a steady increase in visitors coming in. We expect a larger flood in late October,” said A.J. Mosqueda, manager of the Visitor Information Center operated by the bureau.
“We usually see the first wave in October as the weather here cools off and the weather back home gets cold. Then we see another bump after Thanksgiving and another after Christmas. People want to spend the holidays with their families, and it seems more Christmassy with snow than palm trees,” said Ann Walker, the bureau’s media relations specialist.
The number of winter visitors usually peaks in January and February, she added.
The Ho-chunk Casino’s new luxury recreational vehicle park in central Wisconsin is just one part of greater expansion plans that includes a water park and an addition to the casino/convention center, according to casino officials.
The Baraboo News Republic reported that the RV park on the north side of the casino property officially was unveiled to the public Saturday (Oct. 1). The Ho-Chunk Hoiusa Cinuk RV Park features space for 49 RVs, including 21 spaces designed for year-round use. Amenities include wireless Internet access, fire pits and picnic tables, sewer, water and 24-hour security patrols.
Casino Executive Manager Jones Funmaker said the casino always has had some visitors who arrived in their vacation home and parked in the casino’s lot. The new RV park is simply a way to accommodate a new group of customers and attract more of them.
“It seemed to make business sense, ‘hey, can we charge them to park?’” he said.
Funmaker said the casino plans to add much more to the casino/convention center property. Plans include a water park, expansion of the hotel and expansion of the casino.
“We have all these things on the drawing board, but we went with the water park first because that is the draw, then we’ll build the hotel to house them,” he said. “Then the other things will fall in place.”
Milt and Kay Olson spend every Christmas in north central Wisconsin with their children and grandchildren, enjoying a meal together, sharing stories of Christmases past and exchanging gifts, according to a report in the Wassau Daily Herald. Then they take down the Christmas tree, load up the fifth-wheel trailer and head south to escape the below-zero temperatures and snow.
The Olsons, who live in the town of Weston, are some of the more than one million “snowbirds” in the U.S. and Canada who flee winters in colder climes for Florida, Arizona, Gulf Shores, Ala., and other refuges. Snowbirds flee the frozen north to live in retirement communities, RV parks and condominiums where they walk the beaches, play golf and participate in other social activities while Wisconsin residents count the days until summer.
The Olsons stay in Wisconsin longer than most snowbirds, who typically are getting ready to hit the road right about now — as leaves turn and temperatures drop near freezing at night. The recession, high gasoline prices and a struggling housing market haven’t slowed the migration.
Milt and Kay Olson, for example, retired in the early 2000s from jobs at Northcentral Technical College. They decided it was time to go someplace warm, but they weren’t content on picking just one place. They bought a fifth-wheel trailer and a pickup and alternate among Arizona, Texas and Florida, staying at RV parks for three months and seeing sights throughout the area.
“In the grand scheme of things, the price of fuel is the biggest factor,” Milt Olson, 65, said. “It adds a couple hundred dollars, but you don’t decide to stay home for that.”
Tracking the number of snowbirds is difficult because studies are inconsistent and dated. A University of Arizona State study found that more than 300,000 winter residents were living in Arizona at the height of the 2002-03 winter season. A University of Florida study showed that 818,000 people spent the winter of 2005 in that state.
Stefan Rayer, a researcher for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at UF who conducted the 2005 study, said the economic downturn and high unemployment likely have caused that number to drop slightly in recent years.
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What’s the difference between a recreational vehicle and permanent residence? Residents of the Vista del Lago RV Park in Manson, Wash., are awaiting the answer to that question with a little trepidation these days.
The Wenatchee World reported that officers of the Vista del Lago Homeowners Association recently walked through the 80-lot park wondering what a Chelan County code enforcer would find. A Chelan County hearings examiner recently ruled that permanent homes are not allowed in a park approved for RVs.
“We’re hoping no homes will have to be moved, but we’re in limbo right now waiting for the county to come down,” said Dave Sneesby, president of the group.
Chelan County commissioners have been after residents of the RV park for more than a decade to comply with dozens of building code infractions as structures have become increasingly permanent-looking. Commissioners allowed after-the-fact permits to be paid in previous inspections of the park. But a recent ruling by Chelan County Hearing Examiner Andrew Kottkamp came down harder, saying that residences defined as permanent rather than temporary would have to be removed. The homeowners association did not appeal the ruling.
Most residents do come and go, but many of the homes on the lots are hardly mobile. The lots were originally put up for lease, but were later put up for sale. All are now privately owned. The original developer, Eastland Corp., owned by Dave and Kathleen Jewell, is no longer involved.
“Everyone here did what they did in good faith according to the rules at the time,” said Bev Eickhoff, a retired teacher and the association’s secretary.
Brian Webber, another retired teacher from Everett, bought the trailer on lot 33 just last year. He thinks the trailer will conform to code, but it might have to be moved, along with its massive deck, because it was placed too close to the next lot.
“Obviously, you don’t buy a place thinking you’re going to have to move your whole home,” he said.
The Wenatchee World reported that Chelan County Commissioner Doug England said inspectors have already drawn up a rough map of the park but will next go through and inspect it lot by lot to determine what changes have to be made. That should happen soon, he said. With paved roads, concrete driveways and attractive landscaping, Vista del Lago could be a model of recreational home living. The park has a broad mix of Airstreams, fifth-wheel trailers, motorhomes and park model trailers.
Brandon King, the homeowners association’s vice president, parked his 40-foot Keystone trailer with twin tip-outs there a couple years ago and comes to Manson every chance he can. The Everett man removed the wheels and enclosed the bottom of the trailer with cement blocks last year as a cosmetic improvement.
“I don’t think the county wants to get rid of anything. We just have to give them time to work things out,” said King.
“Our goal is to preserve what we have here now and move forward,” Sneesby added.
That may not be possible for all.
Many of the 80 lots are filled with abodes that look much less like trailers. Some are double-wide mobile homes placed on concrete footings. Many have large decks and carports that reach out to the edges of the 40-by-60-foot lots. Others have tool sheds, closed-in porches and add-on rooms. Sneesby’s trailer and several others are called park models, with dimensions and mobility designed to conform with RV park regulations, but looking much like a shingled, two-story house with dormers.
King, Sneesby and Eickhoff all agreed they have a good thing going at the park. The affordable lots offer a view of Lake Chelan, next to a city park and are within walking distance of downtown Manson. No one wants to move, Sneesby said, but the county will have the final say.
“It’s a waiting game now,” he said. “It’s in their hands.”
Due to the influx of people pouring into the Northern Tier from the natural gas industry numerous RV parks in the Towanda, Pa., area have been filled to capacity.
WETM TV reported that the owner of Jones RV Park in Milan said he’s never seen the park stay this full.
“When we first bought it, up until three years ago we were lucky to have three or four camp sites at a time. Now in the last three years we’ve been full,” said Owner Myron Rosh.
Rosh said the average camper used to stay a few days, but now they stay months, adding that more than 90% of his occupants work in the natural gas industry.
Rosh said he’s had up to 20 people at one time on a list waiting to get in.
Steve Moore, the owner of Moore’s Auto and RV Sales, said there are several reasons why they have seen an influx in people staying at the parks.
“Bradford County doesn’t have the infrastructure for the hotels, and bed and breakfasts, offering places to stay for all the drillers coming in,” he said. “So they’re staying in their RVs or are living in them 24/7.”
Moore said his RV sales have quadrupled since 2009. For that reason, he’s begun creating specialty trailers to cater to the workers in the natural gas industry.
“We worked with a manufacturer to make specially designed trailers: extra installation, pads on the holding tanks, heated underbelly, all sorts of things to enable them to put up with our winters” said Moore.
Due to the RV parks being full, Moore said some homeowners have even offered up their property for RVs to park.
A new developer is eyeing the well known Como Springs recreation area in Morgan, Utah, and city and county officials couldn’t be more excited.
Darren Menlove, who has run the downtown Salt Lake City KOA campground and RV Park for 35 years, is in negotiations with the current owner to purchase Como, located next to the Morgan County Fairgrounds, Ogden’s Standard-Examiner reported.
Menlove’s plans for the area include a swimming pool, hot tub, general store/registration office, RV sites, camping sites, camping cabins, pavilion, wi-fi, and onsite full-time property managers. His plans would include demolishing all remaining structures except the old roller-skating rink.
“We think the property has good potential. We have found the finer a property, the higher the clientele base,” Menlove said. “It’s a good sales tax generator. You don’t have to educate or medicate (campers). They spend their money and leave.”
City and county officials agreed.
“It’s a great idea since we don’t have a hotel in our county,” Morgan City Mayor Jim Egbert said. “We have events, and people have no place to stay. It would be advantageous to us, and I am excited about that.”
Based on the history of the area, Menlove said he plans to offer swimming/day passes to locals and tourists whether they stay to camp or not.
“It would be a community swimming pool,” Menlove said. “It would add to the feasibility of the project.”
Menlove considered purchasing the land 13 years ago, and never really forgot about it.
“We are familiar with the property, but still in the very beginning of our feasibility studies,” said Menlove, who owns the KOA proprietary rights that include Morgan County. “We are putting our toe in the water.”
“As you do your planning, I would be interested in you considering other water amenities,” City Councilman Ray Little said. “That type of facility would bring a lot of people here.”
In a time where economic development is a buzz word in the county, many officials are pledging to support Menlove.
“We are interested in making Morgan County a destination spot,” County Councilman Don Mathews said. “We are willing to do whatever we can to help you.”
“Everyone remembers an excellent memory of Como,” County Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said. “Bring back that nostalgic feeling and a wonderful atmosphere. County residents support this. You have our vote of confidence, but don’t dawdle.”
Engbert said the mere history of the area would bring people in.
“It has its name. It is known all over,” Egbert said. “If you talk to the older people, they know where it is.”
Flagg’s RV Resort LLC has appealed the town’s order mandating it remove what it calls recreational vehicles and what the town calls manufactured housing from its York, Maine, campground.
Seacoastonline reported that Flagg’s maintains the units are not “dwellings” as stated in the town’s June 28 notice of violation and order for corrective action, but park models, defined as RVs by the federal government. Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal said he is still researching federal law on the subject.
“Still, I’m charged with upholding the local ordinance,” he said. “If local ordinance doesn’t allow it, it’s not allowed.”
Town ordinance prohibits the units under town density standards for dwellings. McDougal said Flagg’s owners have been telling him they can’t be prohibited because they’re allowed under federal law.
“I keep saying, ‘show me why,'” McDougal said. “No one’s been able to show me why.”
McDougal ordered Flagg’s to remove the new units no later than July 22, or face fines of up to $2,500 per day.
This is the first time the issue has come before the Code Enforcement Office, according to McDougal and Steve Burns, head of the Community Development Office.
Yet, in the appeal, Ordway states park models are already in York. Flagg’s has asked that the appeal be heard by the town’s Board of Appeals Sept. 14, according to attorney David Ordway of Smith & Elliott, Saco, who submitted the appeal on July 27. As of Friday (July 29), no appeal date had been set.
“From Bar Harbor to Kittery, park model RVs and park trailers have become commonplace in Maine campgrounds,” Ordway said in the appeal. “… Similar units are also in place at other campgrounds in York and surrounding towns.”
Morgan RV Resorts LLC, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., which owns Flagg’s, also owns numerous campgrounds from Maine to Florida and has no problems with the cottages in other towns, according to President Bob Moser.
McDougal said Thursday he has received calls from officials in other towns, RV campground owners and users about how York is handling the issue. Calls have come from a campground in Newry near Sunday River and from a park in Sandwich, N.H., he said.
Park models are becoming the trend in RV campgrounds nationwide, according to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). Executive Director Bill Garpow of the Newnan, Ga., association said an estimated 50% of the nation’s 13,000 RV campgrounds now have some park models.
“Recreational vehicle parks have determined they can increase their cash flow and bottom line as a RV park if they do more rental use than just allowing people to bring in their own units,” he said.
This spring, Flagg’s management told the owners of approximately 10 RVs parked year-round in the park and used seasonally, to remove their recreational vehicles. The reason was to make way for an estimated six units Morgan advertises as “cottages,” to be rented nightly or weekly. The campground changed its name from Flagg’s RV Resort to Flagg’s RV & Cottage Resort.
One RV owner said he pays an estimated $5,000 to park his recreational vehicle at Flagg’s for the year, while the cottages rent for an estimated $1,400 a week.
According to Garpow, most RV parks do not need to evict RV tenants to make way for park models, as the majority rent to RV campers on a nightly or weekly, rather than seasonal basis, as is the case with Flagg’s.
Due to the gas industry, the RV parks in Pennsylvania’s Bradford County are now filled to capacity.
But, according to a report in the Towanda Daily Review, the owners of the RV parks aren’t willing to expand the size of their parks because of the “headache” of dealing with government regulations.
So says Steve Moore, owner of Moore’s Auto and RV Sales, who urged the Bradford County commissioners on Thursday (July 28) to modify and streamline local regulations to make it easier for RV parks to expand. Moore also encouraged the commissioners to look at allowing year-round RV camping in the county parks in order to accommodate the needs of gas workers.
Moore said he telephoned the owners of local RV parks this week to find out if they had any additional room in their parks, and to find out if they were planning any increase of the number of RV sites at their parks.
“To a person, they have the money, but don’t want to go through the regulatory headaches to expand their places,” he said.
Moore said the lack of RV spots is causing substantial waiting lists at local RV parks.
“An owner (of an RV campground) told me she has a waiting list of 60 people,” Moore said. “In Sayre, another owner told me he had empty lots for the past 12 years, but has none available now. In Milan, there is a 20-30 person waiting list (at another RV park).”
Moore said one example of an inappropriate regulation is that the Bradford County Planning Commission recently required the Pine Cradle Lake campground in Rome, which now has year-round RV camping, to construct roads inside the campground that are wider than township roads. That is an unnecessary expense for the campground owner, he said.
In the gas industry, RVs are being used locally as living quarters by everyone from roughnecks to managers for Chesapeake Energy Corp., Moore said. Moore said the lack of RV sites in Bradford County is creating a safety issue.
“I have had gas field workers in my office for weeks now who are staying in Montrose, Ogdensburg and Tunkhannock – and they’re all looking for RV spots in Bradford County,” Moore explained. “A lot of these guys have to be at a safety meeting at 6 a.m. in Athens, after a 12-hour work day. I think it’s a safety issue to have to travel that far to get there at 6 a.m.”
Moore urged the commissioners to establish a committee that would look at the feasibility of having year-round RV camping in the county parks. Currently, such camping is allowed in the parks only in the summer season, he said.
Year-round RV camping in the county parks would bring in revenue to the county and would help alleviate the lack of low-income housing in the county, he said.
And he said he wants to make sure that regulations are in place so that the smaller, mom-and-pop operators of RV campgrounds can have an adequate number of RVs on site.
Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said he agreed that the regulations need to be looked at with an eye toward modifying them.
However, he said RVs need to be accommodated in such a way that setbacks are preserved. He also said RVs shouldn’t be located in neighborhoods where neighbors with children would be uncomfortable having them there.