The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) annual Spring Meeting and Trade Show will take place Sunday through Tuesday (April 27-29) with a powerful lineup of speakers, the association announced.
The three-day event, which takes place at Guadalupe River RV Resort and Inn of the Hills in Kerrville, will include a presentation by Sen. Glenn Hegar, candidate for Texas comptroller, who is scheduled to speak during next Tuesday’s lunch meeting.
“Sen. Hegar needs your support so he can become the next comptroller of Texas and support you,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO.
Current Comptroller Susan Combs has created favorable tax policies including sales tax rebates that have put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of TACO members, Schaeffer said.
Other speakers include Kerr County Sheriff W.R. “Rusty” Hierholzer, who will talk about how he enforces RV park legislation that TACO has been instrumental in passing during the past decade. “If you want to know how to work with your local law enforcement to get the laws on the books enforced, you need to be here,” Schaeffer said, adding, “Rusty also needs to know how much we appreciate law enforcement helping TACO parks.”
TACO’s legislative consultant, Ron Hinkle, and the association’s attorney, Casey Erick, will also be in a booth at the TACO trade show to answer questions about legal and legislative issues involving Texas campgrounds.
“We need to know what legislation you would like to have passed or eliminated,” Schaeffer said, noting that TACO’s legislative affairs program is the association’s number-one benefit.
The spring meeting will also include a presentation by Kevin Sullivan of Popp Hutcheson, an Austin-based company that helps clients reduce their property taxes.
“RV parks in Texas have been hit with super-high property-tax bills,” Schaeffer said. “But some of our members have been able to reduce their property taxes and Sullivan will explain how they did it.”
The spring meeting will also include a discussion of the latest Wi-Fi and TV systems, which have become the most important amenity in campgrounds, RV parks and resorts, Schaeffer said.
The three-day event starts Sunday afternoon with a concert by Voice contestant Jared Blake, sponsored by TengoInternet and AGS Guest Area Guides. The concert will be followed by a full-scale casino night at Guadalupe River RV Resort’s River Rock Saloon, courtesy of Rowley Insurance. TACO’s annual auction is scheduled for Monday night with world class auctioneer Dan Kruse. For more information, click here.
A panel of park operators participating in the annual Texas Parks on Tour offered a host of observations and recommendations, including that park model units are becoming a key component for improving profits and diversifying clientele at RV parks and campgrounds. According to a press release, the tour was organized by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The Oct. 20 – 21 event, which took place at Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, also included a roundtable discussion of legal and legislative issues, while seminars covered a variety of topics, including rental cabins and cottages, guest retention, how to organize successful activities and the importance of frequently raising rates. Park operators also toured four parks, including Thousand Trails Lake Conroe, the Lake Conroe KOA, Rayford Crossing and Forest Retreat RV Resort.
The park model panel discussion included Joe Moore of The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine and Bryan Kastleman of Hill Country RV Resort & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels.
“If you don’t have park model cabins, you need to get some,” said Moore, who has added 13 of the rental units to his facility in recent years. Moore said the units have been so popular that he plans to purchase two more in the coming weeks.
“Personally, my observation is that (park model cabins) are the next dimension of the campground industry,” Moore said, adding that both public and private parks are seeing growing demand for the units, which enable parks to accommodate people who don’t have a tent or RV.
But Moore also noted that park operators need more than park models to be successful. “A good product by itself is not enough,” he said. “You need good facilities, great customer service and robust marketing campaign.”
It also helps to market park model accommodations through more channels than the park’s website, Moore said, adding that vacation rental websites such as HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, a vacation rental by owner website, are useful marketing platforms that can attract park model renters who don’t know that campgrounds often have rental accommodations.
Kastleman encouraged park operators to invest in the units now while interest rates are low and credit is available. Kastleman has more than 50 park models at Hill Country RV Resort and Cottage Rentals and he plans to purchase another 15 to 20 units within the next six months.
But while park models can be moneymakers for parks, it’s important to purchase units that are appropriate for your market. “If you cater to Winter Texans,” Kastleman said, “buy a model they like. If you cater to families, get a unit with a loft,” he said, adding that parks that cater to couples on romantic getaways may also need park models with different floorplans.
Kastleman also said it’s important to purchase park models that are easy to clean and maintain. “I don’t put carpet in mine,” he said.
Gwen Craig, who co-owns Rayford Crossing RV Resort with her husband, Billy, provided attendees with information on ways to attract and retain guests.
Craig also noted that her park constantly reinvests its profits in improvements that are visible to guests each year. The park has a young, high-energy staff that provides concierge-level services for guests rather than simply checking them in and out of the park. She also has developed an extensive activities program and sends out monthly emails to update guests on upcoming activities and special events. The idea, she said, is to keep people thinking about the park without burdening them with too many messages.
Several park operators attending the Parks on Tour event reported improvements in their business levels this year compared to last year. Forest Retreat attributes their growth to the fact that they are a Good Sam rated 10/10/10 park.
Moore said revenues were up about 10 percent at The Vineyards Campground & Cabins while park model cabin occupancies were up 5%. He added that revenues for October of this year exceeded revenues from October of last year, which is a good sign heading into the winter season.
Terry Munoz of Thousand Trails Lake Conroe said his park revenue was also up this year, while park model cabin usage was up about 20%.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is providing the city of West, Texas, with a free quarter-page display ad in the association’s 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas.
According to a press release, West incurred more than $35 million in damage during a fertilizer plant explosion last spring. The city is quickly rebuilding as more than 130 building permits have been approved since the explosion, said City Councilman Al Vanek.
“The exposure in the RV Travel & Camping Guide could translate into more people stopping here,” Vanek said. “ Just getting the word out is the main thing; just getting people to stop.”
Interstate 35, the main north-south corridor that brings tourists into the city, is being widened, which will make it easier for travelers to get on and off the highway.
Vanek said as many as 80,000 people pass through West on Interstate 35 each day and the quarter page ad in the RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas is certain to encourage many of them to visit the city for a taste of Czech history and culture.
“We wanted to do something to help the city of West as they try to rebuild,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO. The April 17 blast killed 15 and injured 200, while also damaging local water and sewer systems. Gov. Rick Perry has said the city sustained more than $35 million in damage. The city of West had been under a mandatory water-boil until mid-July.
TACO produces 250,000 copies of the RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas each year. The free, four-color glossy magazine lists more than 350 campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and surrounding states.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is providing the city of West, Texas, with a free quarter page display ad in the association’s 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas.
“We wanted to do something to help the city of West as they try to rebuild from the devastating fertilizer plant explosion that took place last spring,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO executive director and CEO, stated in a news release.
The April 17 blast killed 15 and injured 200, while also damaging local water and sewer systems. Gov. Rick Perry has said the city sustained more than $35 million in damage. The city of West had been under a boil water order until mid-July.
Schaeffer said the free exposure on the 2014 RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas will help West as it tries to rebuild. TACO produces 250,000 copies of the free, four-color glossy magazine each year. The guide lists more than 350 campgrounds and RV resorts in Texas and surrounding states. An interactive version of the state guide is available at http://texascampgrounds.com/freeguide/interactiveguide1.
The directory is broken up into seven sections, each representing a distinct region of Texas. Locator maps are provided at the beginning of each section, with numbered listings of the campgrounds for each region. Campgrounds are also alpha-indexed by city and park name.
Each campground listing includes a grid that lists the park’s facilities, services and amenities as well as driving directions, a miniature locator map and many parks have panoramic photos showing off what campers can experience. The directory also features a Texas Saver Card, which provides a 10% discount at participating parks.
The directory also includes a separate section listing campgrounds with cabin and cottage rentals as well as a listing of park model manufacturers. Schaeffer said almost 25% of Texas campgrounds have cabin or cottage rentals. Many of the parks that offer cabin and cottage rentals also have sites for lease or for sale to park model owners. To get more rental information visit www.TexasCabinRentals.net.
For more information about the directory or camping in Texas call Brian Schaeffer at (817) 307-0129 or visit www.TexasCampgrounds.com.
Hidden Valley RV Park has been owned by the Coleman family and operated by family members Teri and Mark Blaschke for 40 years.
But, according to a press release, the family business was almost completely destroyed May 25 when a flood swelled the Medio Creek into a raging river that buried the 25-site park under 12 feet of water.
“The flood waters completely uprooted the electrical utilities, including the poles that were set in the ground four feet deep,” Teri Blaschke said. “It filled the sewer lines and septic tanks with silt from the creek and gravel from the roads. Our water faucets were all cut off at the ground. Even our camping pads with gravel and other types of materials were destroyed.”
To make matters worse, the Blaschkes insurance was of no benefit.
“When you have a body of water on your property, getting flood insurance is close to impossible to obtain,” Blaschke said. “I thought we might at least have insurance coverage on the RVs we rent out, but our insurance company wouldn’t even cover that because of the flood.”
But despite the obvious financial hardship, the Blaschkes are rebuilding and hope to have Hidden Valley RV Park back in operation by the time the Winter Texans return to Hill Country in the fall.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Blaschke said, adding that construction will be under way as soon as they obtain the necessary building permits.
Blaschke said the flood may have been a blessing in disguise for the park, which was founded by her father, Jack Coleman, in 1973. “When he built the park, RVs were a lot smaller,” she said. “Now, they are much larger and we need bigger campsites.”
When the park reopens, it will have larger sites that are big enough for today’s RVs, an improvement that will make the park more competitive and better able to accommodate RVers with vehicles of any size.
Help is also on the way from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which is donating the company’s Silver marketing package to help them step up their promotional efforts as they rebuild.
The package, valued at nearly $3,500, includes 3,000 rack cards; 3,000 cooperative promotional placements in RV shows and other venues; a free link to their website at www.hiddenvalleyrv.net from TexasCampground.com; a free month on blogging on their behalf; plus 1,000 custom coupons and 1,000 car tags.
Camping used to be synonymous with staying in a tent or RV.
But campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the Lone Star State are finding they can accommodate bigger groups and introduce more people to camping by making park model rental accommodations available to them, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), in a news release.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of parks that offer rental accommodations,” said Schaeffer, whose organization launched a separate website called www.TexasCabinRentals.net to help people find campgrounds with park model rental accommodations.
Park models are 400-square-foot, factory built units that are built on a chassis, like a trailer, but look like cabins or cottages. They come fully furnished with beds and kitchen appliances. Some even have lofts for the kids.
“We’re adding a dozen of them to our park this year,” said Steve Stafford, manager of the North Texas Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Burleson, Texas, outside of Dallas.
Hill Country RV Resort & Cabins in New Braunfels is also adding 11 more park models this year, according to Bryan Kastleman, the park’s managing partner.
Meanwhile, La Hacienda RV Resort & Cottages in Austin is adding seven more park model cabins this month, and will likely add more in the future as demand for rental accommodations in RV resorts continues to grow.
“The park model cabin business has truly been a pleasant experience for us,” said park developer Ken Butschek. “I am experiencing about 15% annual growth on RV site rentals, but 30% on my park model rentals. I’m probably going to need 10 more next year.”
The 400-square-foot units, designed and built by Champion/Athens Park Homes, are sought after by families and Winter Texans as well as people on temporary work assignments in the Austin area who don’t want to commit to a six-month lease in an apartment.
“The park models give these people much more flexibility,” Butschek said, adding that Winter Texans who do not have motorhomes or towable RVs also rent them out during the winter season. “This past winter, of my 30 park model cabins, I think I had 15 of them rented out for one to three months by Winter Texans,” he said.
Major campground chains like Jellystone Parks and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) have joined independently owned and operated campgrounds across the country in adding park model RVs as rental accommodations for their guests. Government run campgrounds are also investing in park model RVs, including The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine.
The 93-site campground, which also has 13 park model cabins, occupies 52 acres of an 850-acre mostly wooded scenic area encircling Grapevine Lake. But while the park has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, including a $2.25 million expansion that included construction of 23 new campsites and the installation of seven new park model cabins, park General Manager Joe Moore.
Park model suppliers, such as Champion/Athens, have seen their business continue to grow in recent years. “We have sold to 49 different campgrounds and resorts here in Texas,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of national park model sales for Champion/Athens, adding, “We do a lot of business with campground owners and a lot of them continue to buy from us each year.”
Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, which won national recognition last year for its customer service, activities and operational excellence, has earned three more awards from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
The awards include “Park of the Year” in recognition of Bentsen Palm Village’s operational excellence; customer service; guest reviews; directory ratings; employee training techniques; community service; and association involvement, according to a news release.
“We have these awards every year and Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort was selected as the best in the large park category, which involves parks that have more than 151 campsites,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO.
Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, Texas, received the Park of the Year Award in the medium size park category, which involves parks with 51 to 150 sites, while no awards were given this year in the small park category.
Bentsen Palm Village also received both of TACO’s newest awards, including its Best Event Award and its Best Welcome Package Award.
Champion/Athens Park Homes was named Supplier of the Year by the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“Champion/Athens Park Homes is a preferred provider of TACO because they provide a quality product and they do what they say they’re going to do,” Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO stated in a news release. “Several members nominated them for this prestigious award, which is to their credit.”
Champion/Athens reported it has seen its business continue to grow in recent years. “We have sold to 49 different campgrounds and resorts here in Texas,” said Dick Grymonprez, director of national park model sales for Champion/Athens. “We do a lot of business with TACO members and a lot of them continue to buy from us each year.”
Grymonprez added that the majority of the park models produced by Champion/Athens Park Homes are being used by campgrounds, RV parks and resorts as rental accommodations.
Champion Home Builders Inc. acquired Athens Park Homes of Athens, Texas last August in a move that significantly expanded the company’s ability to produce and deliver park models at competitive prices. Troy, Mich.-based Champion is a leader in factory-built housing, which it manufactures in 29 facilities across North America and United Kingdom.
Eight of Champion’s park model manufacturing facilities are located at strategic locations across the United States: Texas; Chandler, Ariz.; Lake City, Fla.; Lillington, N.C.; Sangerfield, N.Y.; Weiser, Idaho; and York, Neb.
Athens Park Homes was founded in late 2004 by a group of investors led by Phil Surles, the former COO of Champion Homes. For more information on Champion/Athens, visit the company’s park model website at www.AthensParkHomes.com.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has testified on behalf of Senate Bill 1268, which would prevent water utilities from arbitrarily assessing fees on RV parks on a site-by-site basis.
The proposed legislation would also make wording changes in Texas laws that would enhance RV parks’ ability to implement evictions.
“This is a very important bill for TACO members,” said TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer, who joined Jim Rowley of Pecan Park Campground in San Marcos in testifying on behalf of the bill before the Senate Subcommittee on Business and Finance.
The proposed bill would make several critical wording changes in Texas laws. Among them:
• Establishing within the Water Code an updated policy that states that RV parks cannot be singled out for arbitrary per-site administrative fees. “In other words,” Schaeffer said, “RV parks would pay for utilities provided through their master meter just like any other business.”
• Amending several existing states that define an RV park to more accurately reflect transient guests occupying recreational vehicles; and for which fees are paid at intervals of one day or longer. “This modification makes the definition more current for modern RV parks and eliminates the impression of ‘trailer parks,’” Schaeffer said.
• Removing the words “recreational vehicle” and “recreational vehicle park” from Texas Property Code Section 94, which deals with manufactured home communities. This is a concern to RV parks because Property Code Section 94 has undermined RV parks’ ability to implement evictions on the basis of “Theft of Service” or trespassing legislation that TACO has implemented through previous legislative sessions. “Local law enforcement typically handles ‘Theft of Service’ or trespassing complaints as a civil issue and refers RV park operators to civil courts, rather than enforcing the law in the field,” Schaeffer said. “The reason they do this is because of Property Code Section 94, since it references recreational vehicles and recreational vehicle parks. This Senate Bill would remove these impediments so that evictions could be expedited.”
• Enabling park operators to disconnect the utilities of non-paying guests.
SB 1268 is expected to move through legislative committees in the coming weeks and eventually face a full up or down vote of the Legislature.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has intervened in the state Legislature to protect campground owners from unfair taxes and fees, according to a press release.
TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer recently testified in favor of House Bill 2152 by Rep. Bill Callegari, which prevents local utilities from applying administrative fees to RV parks unless they are applied equally to all businesses.
“We don’t mind paying what other businesses pay,” Schaeffer said. “Unfortunately, some utilities are charging parks an administrative fee for each campsite. At this rate, a fee of $10 per site for a 100-site RV park is $1,000 a month. That’s double the typical water bill for a park of that size. So this legislation should hopefully put a stop to this unfair targeting of RV park and campground owners.”
TACO also recently intervened to protect campground operators near the San Marcos River from being assessed a new tax.
Senate Bill 280 originally proposed taxing campgrounds to pay for additional policing and trash control efforts along the San Marcos River. But TACO argued that park owners should not be assessed the tax because many of their guests are snowbirds or Winter Texans who do not use the river.
“Our legislative consultant, Ron Hinkle, set a meeting with the office of state representatives and founding TACO member Jim Rowley of Pecan Park Campground, located on the San Marcos River. During the meeting we requested relief on the camping fees portion of the bill,” Schaeffer said. “Sen. Judith Zaffirini introduced substitute language at the hearing that exempted RV parks regarding camping fees.”
Once the language of SB 280 was changed, Schaeffer testified in favor of the bill and memorialized the fact that RV parks and camping fees would be exempt from the new tax should it be implement.
“Fighting for our members at the state capitol to protect their businesses and rights is the number one TACO member benefit,” Schaeffer said. “I am proud to represent TACO members on these important matters.”
Both HB 2152 and SB 280 are expected to move through legislative committees in the coming weeks and eventually face a full up or down vote of the Legislature.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is anticipating an influx of campers to the state during the upcoming spring break, according to a press release.
“Some of our parks are already filling up for spring break,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO for TACO.
In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, The Vineyards Campground & Cabins on Grapevine Lake is gearing up for big crowds. “We are ramping up our golf carts inventory to handle the crowds,” said campground manager Joe Moore. “We also have an endless supply of firewood and s’mores ingredients and we’ve made our list of ice creams to have on board. We even have a new t-shirt design to roll out.”
Moore said The Vineyards will have planned activities throughout spring break period. “March is when the fish really start biting out on the lake,” he said, adding that the park has kayak, paddle boat and bicycle rentals.
Further south, Hill Country RV Resort in New Braunfels is planning several activities in the spring break period, including nightly Disney movies, marshmallow roasts, donut socials, kids crafts and Karaoke events, according to park manager Bryan Kastleman. The park’s amenities include an indoor heated pool and a jumping pillow, said .
Some parks anticipate a busy March because spring break schedules vary by school district.
“Our spring break will be most busy from March 7 to 17,” said Larry Jones, who owns the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Canyon Lake which has both RV sites and rental accommodations. But the park also expects to be busy from March 18 to 24 because some schools in Texas and Oklahoma have their spring break at that time.
While campgrounds, RV parks and resorts expect to be full for spring break, several parks still had some sites and rental accommodations available as of last week.
It’s no secret that RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley whose livelihoods depend on the annual influx of Winter Texans are facing several challenges.
Many of today’s winter visitors are younger and more mobile than their counterparts of years past, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“They may go to Arizona this year, Texas next year and Florida the next year,” said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 74 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.
Snowbirds who don’t have a history of spending their winters in the Rio Grande Valley are also more likely to be frightened by publicity about violence in Mexico, even though cities in the Rio Grande Valley have less crime than other popular winter resort destinations in other states.
Despite these challenges, RV parks and resorts across the Rio Grande Valley are finding that they can continue to grow their business base for the winter season if they offer lots of organized activities and continue to invest in new amenities for their parks, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
These new amenities include walking areas and agility courses for people with dogs as well as special pet-related activities.
“Dog parks are a big deal,” said Jacqueline Gomez, who is the marketing director for Llano Grande Lake Park Resort & Country Club in Mercedes, Victoria Palms Resort in Donna and Alamo Park Mobile Home & RV Park in Alamo. She said each of the resorts has two, off-leash dog areas.
The dog park at Bentsen Palm Village in Mission has become so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.
“About 70% to 75% of our guests have dogs, so these kinds of amenities are important,” said Juanita Carvajal, Bentsen Palm Village’s general manager.
Of course, while pet friendly amenities are attractive to Winter Texans, that’s not the only attraction at Bentsen Palm Village. The 250-site resort recently set aside an open area of the park where its guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“It’s like a community garden,” Carvajal said, “but we give each guest a 10 by 10-foot section where they can put a stake with their name on it. They often grow kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions and radishes. Sometimes, they grow so much they bring it into the office to share.”
Bentsen Palms also markets its proximity to the World Birding Center while also highlighting the rare birds and other wildlife that make their way into the park.
But while nature oriented activities are always popular, RV park and resort operators are finding that other types of organized activities are also critical for today’s Winter Texans.
El Valle del Sol in Mission offers more than 100 activities each week for its guests. “Winter Texans want to be active,” said park manager Irma Sanchez.
Campgrounds and RV parks that cater to Winter Texans in South-Central Texas anticipate a stronger winter season than last year, thanks in part to the Eagle Ford shale oil pipeline project, which has brought scores of construction workers into the area, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“Last winter was about the best we’ve ever had and we’re going to be about 20% ahead of that this winter, so we’re looking really good,” said Doug Shearer of Parkview Riverside RV Park in Rio Frio.
In addition to seeing the return of their Winter Texan visitors, campgrounds in the Texas Hill Country and other areas of South-Central Texas are filling up with construction workers involved in the Eagle Ford shale oil project, which is boosting campground occupancies during the fall shoulder season, Shearer said.
Other Hill Country campgrounds and RV parks also anticipate a strong winter season, including Hill Country RV Park & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels. “We have a waiting list for both RV sites and park model rentals,” said Bryan Kastleman, the park’s manager.
Other parks are similarly upbeat.
“We did well last winter, but we’re doing better this winter,” said Teri Blaschke of Hidden Valley RV Park in Von Ormy. “People are making reservations further in advance, so we’re being able to tell sooner what our vacancies will be. I do have spots here and there for travelers, but our long-term sites are already booked.”
Blaschke added that she is putting in eight new campsites for the winter season and they are already reserved.
Further to the north, La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin is already booked solid for the winter season. “We’ve got a waiting list and we’re turning people away for the 2012-2013 winter market,” said park owner Ken Butschek, who added that his year-to-date revenue is up about 15 percent over last year’s figures.
La Hacienda RV Resort has a mix of sites that are owned by RVers as well as elegant park model cottages that are available for rent. The park also has about 30 sites that are available for overnight use.
“We have a loyal group of repeat Winter Texans. But we’re also seeing a lot of people who are trying out our park models,” Butschek said.
Further east, Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring and Timber Ridge RV Village in Tomball are already booked for the winter season, said Gwen Craig, who co-owns both parks. She said she has waiting lists for her seasonal sites, although she has kept a few overnight sites available for travelers.
“Every year we’ve outperformed the prior year in occupancy and revenue,” she said, adding that this year is again shaping up to be stronger than last year.
Thousand Trails RV Resort at Lake Conroe is also seeing a strong winter season, fueled both by Winter Texans as well as families from Texas that come to the park on weekends to take part in organized activities and special events.
“We’re seeing younger crowds,” said Terry Munoz, resort manager of the 360-site park. “Even during the winter the locals come out on weekends, so long as we have mild weather. We do a lot of themed weekends and activities.”
RV park managers in San Benito, Texas, fear a new ordinance could open their financial records to the city and unfairly penalize them if their count of mobile homes and park models doesn’t match the city’s count.
The revised ordinance, which took effect Monday, imposes a $10 monthly water fee on mobile homes and park models, The Brownsville Herald reported.
The law can “permanently” charge RV parks additional fees if their tallies of mobile homes and park models differ from the city’s counts, Curtis Richardson, maintenance supervisor at First Colony Mobile Home and RV Park, said.
The ordinance describes such discrepancies as “violations” and “theft of services.”
“They can come in here and open up our financial records and see what kind of business we’re doing,” Richardson said.
Pete Claudio, chairman of the city’s utility board, denied the accusation.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), an Arlington association that lobbies for RV parks, wants to know if the ordinance violates Senate Bill 569 and House Bill 841, the laws passed in 2005 that prohibit cities from charging water fees to unmetered RV sites, said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director.
“It is incredible,” Schaeffer said. “We had a problem with the general access to a park’s books. They want auditing rights over your books. We’re going to see if it violates the law and if we need to tighten up (the law) because this is ridiculous.”
Claudio said the city will not apply the penalties unless parks misrepresent their numbers.
Campground operators say they’ve had a good summer camping season, fueled by travelers as well as increasing business activity.
“All over Texas, our members are telling us their year-to-date business levels have surpassed last year’s figures,” Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), stated in a news release.
Gwen Craig, co-owner of Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, in the Woodlands area north of Houston, is a case in point.
“We had our best summer ever,” she said. “Lots of people just vacationing, lots of people selling houses, building new ones. Lots of people moving to the area. Lots and lots of new RVers.”
Allan Hughes of Traders Village RV Park in Grand Prairie attributed the improvement in part to milder summer weather.
“Last summer was brutal,” he said, noting that northern Texas suffered 71 days in a row of 100 degree plus days. This summer, however, the weather was much better. So much nicer, in fact, that Hughes saw more tent campers than normal this year.
People also weren’t as affected by fuel prices. “We didn’t have that as an issue,” Hughes said.
Joe Moore, general manager of The Vineyards Campground and Cabins in Grapevine, near the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, said he was surprised by the strength of the 2012 camping season.
“We’re seeing a 10% to 15% increase over last year’s revenues,” he said, with RV sites increasing by 10 percent while revenue from the park’s new park model cabin rentals increased by 15%.
Moore added that advance reservations for cabins at The Vineyards remain strong. “We’re very strong over the next three or four months. We have a lot of requests or long-term stays at the campground, more so than in the past. We’re hoping it stays strong.”
Some Vineyards campers, in fact, are booking their sites nearly a year in advance. “We only have a handful of reservations left for July 4th next year,” Moore said.
Weather was also improved in the Texas Hill Country, where campgrounds catered to tubing, rafting and kayaking enthusiasts.
“We had the best summer we’ve ever had,” said Doug Shearer of Parkview Riverside RV Park in Concan, which opened in March 2001.
He attributed the strong business levels to the abundance of water. “The river was in the best shape we’ve had in about five years,” he said.
Based in Crowley, TACO publishes and distributes the Texas RV Travel & Camping Guide to Texas each year. For more information about the 2012 directory or for statistics involving the latest camping trends in Texas and New Mexico parks, please contact Brian Schaeffer at (817) 307-0129 or visit www.texascampgrounds.com and www.texascabinrentals.net.