Entrepreneur Andy Cates, the guy who is credited with helping steer the NBA to Memphis, Tenn., is now driven to shake up the RV park and campground industry with his fledgling enterprise, RVC Outdoor Destinations.
Cates recently took a reporter from the Commercial Appeal to the newest — and nearest to Memphis — of RVC’s five upscale developments, Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs, Ark. Cates is eager to show RV owners and outdoor enthusiasts how different Catherine’s Landing is from typical RV parks and campgrounds.
So different, he refuses to label his as “RV parks,” calling them “outdoor destinations” instead.
So different, RVC claims to have invented a new category for the industry, one that offers consistently beautiful natural spaces, upscale amenities, and fine-tuned customer service.
So different, RVC clamors for the kind of “segmentation” in the RV park industry that hotels enjoy. Hotel travelers, for example, instantly know from seeing the signs for a Motel 6, Hampton Inn or Hilton what to expect from each in service, amenities and price.
RVC considers itself the Hilton of RV parks.
In addition to the KOA’s, Jellystones and the independent campgrounds, RVC seeks to distinguish itself from the government parks, too.
“A lot of state and federal parks have incredibly attractive outdoor environments, but an underwhelming service culture and operating culture,” Cates says. “We’re trying to democratize phenomenal recreational land.”
So after reaching Hot Springs in under three hours, Cates first gives a quick driving tour of a competing, independently owned RV park that’s been, he says, “arguably the highest-rated in town.”
On a slow Monday morning, he points out at least four motorhomes worth $200,000 in a place that offers views of the surrounding hills, but no pool or access to recreational water.
The 41-year-old Cates motors on to RVC’s three-month-old Catherine’s Landing, nestled on 400 acres of a former dairy farm along the banks of Lake Catherine.
The entrance is a long, gently curving ribbon of asphalt that eventually reveals the welcome center/headquarters lodge designed by Memphis architects Hunter Fleming and John Harrison Jones.
The stone, metal and glass building, perched on a rise, is modern and striking, with an angled roof that opens the lobby’s glass wall to a terraced, saline swimming pool and below to the campground and Lake Catherine.
Cates leads his guests straight to the men’s restroom to show they sparkle and are extra private. Each toilet and shower stall, while illuminated in natural light from windows above, is a room to itself.
The lodge has a store, wine and coffee, large fireplace with a flat-screen TV, washers and dryers, a fitness room and even a “Wii-dia room” where families can play Wii video games on a large screen.
RVC doesn’t just provide Wi-Fi and coffee, he says. “We offer good Wi-Fi and good coffee.”
Manager Brad Boler and assistant manager Ian Horgan provide Cates a golf cart to tour the grounds.
He drives through the 120 RV spaces ($40 to $45 daily weekdays, $42 to $50 weekends), which are dotted with either motor coaches or fifth-wheel rigs. Circles of lawn chairs and clusters of bikes sit outside nearly every RV.
Planted among the concrete RV pads are young oak, elm and pine trees. The new grass turf has not yet been established.
Cates stops the cart to show the fenced dog park, saying, “A huge portion of guests have pets.”
He continues to the row of 25 RV sites that line the bank of calm Lake Catherine. If the water looks more like a pretty river, it was. Construction of Remmel Dam turned it into an 11-mile-long lake in 1924.
The golf cart reaches Catherine’s Landing’s 13-slip dock, where a pontoon boat and kayaks are available to rent. Cates points to an extra bathroom RVC built near the dock for the convenience of boaters and fishermen.
The tour continues to the picnic pavilion, its dramatically angled roof mirroring the lodge design and sheltering 20 picnic tables. There’s an ice machine and showers.
He drives the cart as far as he dares into the undeveloped Phase II property, gets out and puts his hiking shoes to use.
“I want to show y’all a neat hiking trail,” says Cates, a slim road cyclist who now speed-walks ahead of the pack into the woods.
Catherine’s Landing doesn’t accommodate tent campers, but does offer high-end camping — “glamping” — with five air-conditioned yurts ($50-$70 a night) clustered under a canopy of towering trees.
Each has hardwood floors, beds, a skylight at its peak and its own picnic table and grill. The yurts — vinyl wrapped around wood framing — sleep four to eight-plus, depending on their size.
Close by is the pavilion with bathrooms, showers and ice.
Atop the hill behind the welcome lodge sits 10 small cottages ($140 to $160 a night) that can sleep four people within their 400 square feet. Each includes a covered deck with ceiling fan, full kitchen and flat-screen TV. They’re actually little mobile homes, but it’s hard to tell by looking.
In future phases, RVC plans to sell the cottages and lease the ground they sit on.
Both the corporate and independent owners of other campgrounds might acknowledge how nice their new competition is, but question the business model.
After all, they’re receiving roughly the same per-unit revenue without nearly the costs RVC has born.
“On a per-unit basis, we’re way out there and we know that,” Cates says. “If the consumer does not reward us, we’re in trouble.” RVC must enlarge its scale exponentially, creating a network of many dozens of outdoor destinations across the nation, he says.
“… If we’re unable to grow this, I’ll feel very stupid,” he says. “We’re not doing this for just six properties.”
Eventually RVC may raise prices to befit its amenities, but for now the company is sharply focused on getting more and more guests.
In addition to Catherine’s Landing, RVC has locations in Pine Mountain, Ga., south of Atlanta, Carrabelle Beach, Fla., Live Oak Landing, Fla., and Mountain Springs, N.C.
Editor’s Note: Kerwin Pyle, resort business director for Resort Parks International, sent this e-mail to the campground chain’s 200 member parks, appealing for aid for a second campground in Massachusetts that was destroyed by a tornado on June 1. There were actually two resorts destroyed in that disaster, Village Green Family Campground and the resort across the road called Quinebaug Cove.
I’m writing today with a special request. On June 1, 2011, a horrible tornado tore through the Northeast – actually right through Springfield, Mass. There were a lot of damage, hadn’t been anything like it there in about 50 years. One of the victims was a good friend of ours, the Quinebaug Cove Resort (QCCR), an RPI affiliate. They were totally destroyed by the tornado. As a result of this disaster, hundreds of families lost a place they have called home for many years. About 100 folks at QCCR lost MH rigs, cars, trailers, park models, decks, AZ add-on rooms … they lost it all. When you view the pictures I’ve attached, you’ll see how truly tragic it all is.
The resort, we’re told, was insured and will be able to repair, rebuild and reopen.
Unfortunately, most of the individuals affected were older campers, seniors and retired folks, with no insurable value. They are, sadly, on their own. But this is where we can step in. These displaced people need our help. This type of catastrophe could happen at your own resort, these could be your members struck by unimaginable loss.
The QCCR owners’ board has established a Disaster Relief Fund for those who have been so terribly impacted by the tornado. The fund is set up and ready to accept donations at the TD Bank in Sturbridge, Mass. What we’re requesting is that you consider putting a donation jar at your check-in counter and asking your members to donate $1 or $1 for each night they camp with you. (Here’s an idea: In turn, you could then give them a ticket good for a hotdog or at your store, just for donating.) In fact, I would appreciate you collecting these donations clear through the Labor Day weekend.
RPI will send you a participation award to hang on the wall when you contribute your first $100 to the fund. Let’s get together and make this work. If everyone does a little, it helps a lot! Here’s the best way to do it:
• Collect $100 in donations
• Write a company check made out to “QCCR Relief Fund” and send it to RPI at 2901 Cherry Ave, Signal Hill, CA 97055
• RPI will forward the funds to the bank and keep track of your contributions
• For each $100 contribution from your resort, we will add your name to a drawing for a condo week. The retail value is worth $700 and up! We will announce the winner in September.
• RPI will send you the participation award when we receive your first $100 contribution.
Want to help me make a Quick Start Difference? Send your check now for the first $100, I mean, right now. That’s a Quick Start, for sure. Sincerely, Kerwin Pylekpyle@resortparks.com562-595-8818 x 141.
* Winner will receive a certificate good for one bonus week condo booked through Preferred Access. Certificate will be valid through June 30, 2012. Certificate may not be redeemed for cash.
Leo Molloy has built a reputation around Canada’s Burin Peninsula over the last two decades with his salvage yard.
Now, the Marystown resident plans to expand into the world of tourism, according to a report in the Southern Gazette.
The owner of Molloy’s Auto Salvage said he has been determined for the last five years to open up a state-of-the-art park for recreational vehicles in the Winterland area.
After cutting through the red tape, surveying the land, gathering statistics and information and preparing a business plan, Molloy indicated he hopes to start development of the park this year and to open up for business next spring.
He’s calling it Tranquility RV Park, “the reason being is it’s going to be like a piece of heaven on earth.”
Besides a spectacular view and natural scenery, Molloy plans to install electricity, 24-hour security, a dumping station, a children’s playground, a canteen, rock climbing wall, driving range, mini-golf course and a man-made pond.
He said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to turn his dream into a reality. “I was turned down for a loan, so I’m doing this out of my money. I’m going to do this regardless.”
The park will be just a short walk away from the Winterland EcoMuseum and has a number of water inlets.
Molloy, who indicated people started to inquire when they heard a rumor he was in the process of developing the facility, indicated the need is there on the peninsula.
“Last May 24 weekend, there were 32 campers turned away (from various sites in the area). There’s more demand then what there is supply.”
He plans to employ four to six people at the facility during its start-up year. As the park grows and develops, so will the staff. He hopes to eventually have 80 sites available.
“This will bring economic good to the peninsula, because (people) are going to know its here, and they are going to come here,” Molloy said. “They are bringing their money here and they are going to buy stuff from the stores, like camping gear and everything.”
Over the years, Molloy said has learned a lot about what is required to run a business. He plans to take all that knowledge and use it with the operations at the park, but he’s also is hoping the community will give him some help.
“It would be great to get some support. I want someone to teach me how to fish, not fish for me. I’ve learned a lot of that on my own, but there’s only so far you can go yourself. Then you have to start to reach out.”
An RV park near Nebraska City, Neb., has become a refugee city for flood victims along the Missouri River valley. Some in the camper village had to flee their homes, while others were cut off from their work.
KETV Omaha reported that Phyllis Meisenheimer’s family had to pack up all their belonging and leave their home right across the river in Iowa. Now they are part of the growing camper village at the Victorian Acres RV Park.
“There’s a whole row of us, so we’re getting to know each other and are making the best of the situation,” said Meisenheimer.
Don White and his wife are different kinds of flood refugee.”Our house is dry. Our business is dry, but going back and forth is wet,” he said.
White lives in Tarkio, Mo., which is usually about a 40-minute commute to his dry cleaning business in Nebraska City. Now, with all the detours and the main bridge closed, the drive to work takes about two hours.
White’s not the only one in this situation.
“There are others that have either been displaced or need to be on this side of the river to maintain their jobs, so yes, there are quite a few of us,” White said.
The owners of the RV park are giving the displaced families a break on the rates and have waived the deposit for a parking spot.
Owner Ange Sawyer said business will be down this summer due to the detours and flooding, but she feels for the crop of refugees in her RV park.
“I felt sorry for them and I knew they were going to be struggling, and we’re going to be struggling too, but they are going to be worse,” said Sawyer.
The families are thankful for their temporary new address and they are trying to make the best out of a potentially devastating situation.
“We had plenty of warning to get out, so we have plenty to be thankful for,” Meisenheimer said.
The Sussex County (Del.) Council overrode the unanimous vote of its planning board Tuesday (June 21) and approved a controversial plan to put a campground in the middle of a manufactured home community on Long Neck, The News Journal reported.
Opponents of the project said the 3-2 vote in favor of the Rehoboth Shores proposal clears the way for other landowners who lease to manufactured homeowners to do whatever they want with their unoccupied land.
“Every community in Sussex County … can now get campers and all that into their communities,” said Ed Speraw, a Rehoboth Shores resident and president of the Delaware Manufactured Homeowners Association. “RVs are not manufactured housing.”
Residents had argued that a campground would fundamentally change the nature of their community, in which they lease the land but own their homes, expressing worry about crime and security.
The tie-breaking vote was cast by Council President Mike Vincent, R-Seaford, who said he also had been concerned about security, but a 6-foot-high earthen berm and fencing promised by the owner assuaged that.
“I think it’s something that could work, will work,” Vincent said of the overall plan.
Joining him in voting for the project were Councilmen Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, and Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown. Phillips said it will promote tourism and help the economy without putting a burden on schools, as putting additional manufactured homes on the site could have.
Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Lewes, and Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, voted against it.
“This is like changing the rules in the middle of the game,” Deaver said, adding that manufactured housing is affordable housing for many people.
Cole said that while more campgrounds may be needed in the county, the demand is for transient camping, not season-long rental sites like those that will be at Rehoboth Shores. “They end up becoming almost more of a permanent-type housing, it seems,” he said.
The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously in March to oppose the plan, with members saying it was not compatible with the property use and was too dense.
Current residents will not be displaced, but about 260 RV sites will replace 260 approved but undeveloped home locations. About 400 people from Rehoboth Shores and neighboring communities signed a petition against the project, worried in part that homeowners will be unable to sell their homes.
The camping community in Massachusetts is reaching out to help Les and Meg Twarowski rebuild their Village Green Family Campground that was decimated by a tornado on June 1.
Located in Brimfield, Mass., east of Springfield, the campground suffered a direct hit that day: one camper was killed and 95 of the 97 RVs parked at the campground were destroyed. Many of the trees on the site were split in two or otherwise destroyed.
Recently, members of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO) board and some park owners visited the campground to show their concern and offer the Twarowskis their support to rebuild.
“DEVASTATING. That’s the most appropriate word I can use for Village Green Campground. Just about everything is gone but the strength and determination for Les and Meg Twarowski to rebuild,” Marcia Galvin, MACO executive director, said in an e-mail to MACO members and shared with Woodall’s Campground Management.
“Les and Meg are so upbeat about their park. It’s amazing with the damage and the unfortunate death of one of their campers that they can smile. They are so concerned about their campers and those whose insurance may not cover the damage and not be able to buy another camper. They have formed an extended family and want to see them be able to continue with the memories. Many of their seasonals have set up tent camps and are camping and helping with the cleanup. They have already ordered a new playground so the kids will have something to do.”
During their visit, the MACO members met “Ed,” the lawnmower. He gave the first dollar to the fundraiser to help rebuild the park.
He shared a brief story of the day of the storm.
“He was in his truck driving around the campground to warn campers about the storm when he was caught in it himself,” Galvin relayed. ”The hay wagon flew through the air and landed right on his truck. That saved his life. Ed is fine.”
The owners are looking for anyone that has an old towable trailer at their park that can be donated.
“What they desperately also need now are woodchippers,” Galvin said. “They have to be the kind that doesn’t ‘eat’ too fast. They have the manpower but only one chipper. With the devastation, they need many woodchippers.”
To donate this or other items, contact Meg (413)245-3504 or Galvin at (508) 294-4169 (cell).
Meanwhile, MACO has organized two fundraisers.
* The first is a poster campaign notifying campers in MACO parks who may wish to make a donation. Some parks have said they would match funds raised. This fundraiser will go on through Labor Day weekend.
* MACO has designated July 4th weekend as “Support Village Green Family Campground Weekend.” Participating MACO parks are pledging $1 per site to be donated to the relief fund to help rebuild Village Green Family Campground.
“In MACO, we have over 12,000 sites,” Galvin noted. “Just think of the impact we could do for a member of our MACO family.”
Some RV dealers and affiliated MACO members have already pledged money for the effort, she added.
“Meg and Les were so thrilled to hear that we would be doing this for them,” Galvin continued. “They are setting up an account at Country Bank and will allocate the funds through a committee. Les would really like to bring his campers ‘home’ and MACO is here to help.”
Galvin, who provided the storm damage photos that accompany this story, and her fellow MACO members also visited Quinebaug Cove Campground, a condo-type campground located about five miles from Village Green. It also was hit by the June 1 tornado and badly damaged, though not as severe at Village Green, Galvin said.
Quinebaug Cove is not a MACO member, but Galvin said MACO members showed their concern and she said they would help advertise a fundraiser to aid that campground.
Click here to watch a video, courtesy of WPBN-WTOM TV, Traverse City, Mich., about the following story.
When it comes to an emergency in a home, first responders are ready, but what if something happens in a motorhome?
Hearthside Grove Luxury Motorcoach Resort in Petoskey, Mich., gave emergency crews an upper hand for those types of situations.
The resort invited local police officers, firefighters, and EMS to their park Thursday night (June 16) to give them an idea of what they might experience if there’s an emergency while a family is camping.
“If there’s a problem with a motorhome, if there’s a fire, what does it look like inside, where the propane tanks are, the fuel, what’s normal, where are the knock-out windows, that type of thing, so everyone’s familiar with it,” said Kirk Rose, co-owner of the resort.
More than 100 first-responders and recreational vehicle owners were invited to the park.
The main goal is to give the responders insight for when there is an emergency.
A Brunswick, Ga., RV park owner says he should not have to pay a county-imposed bed tax because he doesn’t rent beds, according to a report in the Florida Times Union, Jacksonville.
The county has been trying to squeeze every dollar out of its accommodation excise tax – also known as the bed tax – and that includes a recent attempt to collect from campgrounds and RV parks, as wells as hotels, inns and other short-term accommodations.
Earl Perry’s Coastal Georgia RV Resort in the southern part of the county draws visitors off Interstate 95 who generally spend a few days and more than a few dollars, he told the county commission Tuesday (May 17) during a work session. They pay $40 a day to stay at the park, which would increase by $2 if Perry tacks on the 5% tax. That would put him at a competitive disadvantage with parks in other counties, he said.
“We rent property; we don’t rent beds,” he said. “If you impose this tax, we may lose business. I think it’s unfair. Nobody else down the I-95 corridor imposes it.”
Perry noted that a law permitting the county to impose a bed tax has been on the books since 1987, but until March there had never been an effort to collect it from RV parks.
That’s when he received a letter from Glynn County Finance Director Phyllis McNicoll asking him to pay up.
“Glynn County has become aware that you are operating a tourist camp, tourist cabin or campground at South Port Parkway,” the letter said in part. “Therefore, you are subject to the requirements of the Lodging Tax Ordinance but have failed to comply with the provisions of the ordinance.”
Perry argued that his park has a positive financial impact on the county even without the bed tax.
“We make a lot for the county,” he said. “We’ve been named one of the top 100 RV parks in the country.”
Erie County Judge Shad Connelly charged the owner of Moon Meadows Campground near Erie, Pa., with civil contempt Wednesday (July 28) and sent him to the Erie County Prison.
Connelly told Thomas Peckham that he will remain in prison until all tenants leave his Greenfield Township campground or he fixes its sewage system, said Doug Range, director of environmental health for the Erie County Department of Health, the Erie Times-News reported.
“If they decide to vacate the property, it must truly be vacant,” said Range, who attended the hearing. “People can’t be staying there during the day and just sleeping somewhere else at night.”
Peckham’s incarceration is the latest development in his 13-month battle with county health and law-enforcement officials.
He has consistently refused to make improvements to the campground’s sewage system after a county health inspector found puddles of raw sewage and substandard septic work done without a permit in June 2009.
Peckham has said there were no puddles of raw sewage, and that he never needed permits to do septic work before 2009.
Connelly had ordered the campground closed by Tuesday if the improvements weren’t made.
Five Erie County Sheriff’s Office deputies went to Moon Meadows on Tuesday to tell Peckham that the judge wanted to talk with him. They waited two hours for Peckham to show, but he never did.
Peckham later said he avoided the campground because he knew the deputies were there to arrest him “and make a big show of it.”
He turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning.
At the hearing in Connelly’s courtroom, county Health Department officials testified that the campground still was not in compliance with the Pennsylvania Sewage Facility Act, Range said.
“We received a call from the property’s manager, Bonnie (Jenkins), asking what she needs to do to vacate the campground,” Range said.
Range told her what needed to happen, and Jenkins then passed word to some of the Moon Meadows residents.
“The longer everyone stays here, the longer Tom will stay in jail,” Jenkins told people as they sat outside the campground’s store, 9915 Station Road.
Some residents said they were moving out Wednesday, even if they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Linda Bayhurst has lived in a Moon Meadows cabin for almost a year with her two grown daughters. She plans to drive them to work during the day, then find a spot to park their recently fixed 1998 Saturn at night.
“I’ve been in the situation before,” Bayhurst’s daughter Lisa Decenso said. “We’ll just shift around until we find a nice and quiet place, pull over and sleep in the car.”
Doug Naugle planned to park his recreational vehicle in someone’s cow pasture Wednesday night.
He called other campgrounds this week to see if he could park his RV there, but he said he keeps getting a runaround
“Right now, I’m leaving to get Tom out of jail,” Naugle said. “And once the campground is reopened, I’ll be back.”
Range said no one called the Health Department on Wednesday to find out how to fix the campground’s sewage system.
A controversial RV park created to accommodate visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, not only failed to make a profit, it cost the park board $70,000, Global BC reported.
Phyllis Tyers, president of the North West Point Grey Home Owners’ Association, said she and many of her neighbours were dreading the Olympics because of concerns regarding the RV camps. They were supposed to hold 300 vehicles at Spanish Banks and Jericho Beach, across the road from the residents’ homes. “We started a petition and made a presentation to the park board, but it turned out that was a waste of time because nobody showed up,” said Tyers. “It was a non-event.”
According to a short report compiled by Philip Josephs, acting co-director of Stanley District, only 145 spots were used with guests staying an average five days. It cost the park board $144,000 to create the RV parks, including $115,000 to hire a contractor to manage them for seven months.
Other expenses included a shuttle bus, sanitary pump-outs and the use of the Jericho Sailing Center for showers. Some items, such as fencing and portable toilets, were donated through sponsorship.
In total, the park board took in almost $75,000, which left a deficit just short of $70,000.
Tyers said the park board should have done its homework before approving the plan. She also believes the RV parks were a done deal before any public consultation was completed. She added that $70,000 could have better been spent on saving the Bloedel Conservatory or to pay for community center programs at risk due to operating budget cuts.
“I think there’s a real lack of priorities,” she said.
But Josephs defends the plan and says it was based on information the park board received at the time, which wasn’t entirely accurate.
He said before the RV camps were approved, the Capilano RV Park in North Vancouver told the park board that it was “sold out” a year before with Olympic visitors from the U.S. What the park board didn’t know is that Capilano didn’t insist on deposits at the time of booking reservations. As it turns out, said Joseph, only 20 to 30 of those reservations were honored.
“It was a bit misleading,” he said. “And the RV park in Coquitlam thought the same thing, but they only had two reservations show up so it was closed down.”
“I feel we did a fair job in doing our homework,” said Josephs.
He added that prior to the start of the Games, the Vancouver Organizing Committee released many hotel rooms it had previously reserved. As a result, only the three Jericho Beach sites were used and the proposed camp at Spanish Banks never opened.
Still, said Josephs, about 400 campers in those 145 RVs enjoyed themselves at Jericho Beach.
“RV patrons from all over North America and even some from Europe were very happy with the amenities at Jericho, especially the services available at the sailing club, one of the board’s partners in this venture,” Josephs wrote in his report. “There were no reported problems with the surrounding neighbourhood.”
On the other hand, said Josephs, the Roundhouse and False Creek community centre rentals generated a net surplus of $555,000 towards capital projects. As well, broadcasting agreements, filming and parking made another $63,000.