Several Texas campground operators are offering free and discounted campsites and park model cabins to families displaced by the fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas.
“Our members want to help those who need help,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), which represents both public and privately owned and operated campgrounds across the Lone Star State.
So far, four campgrounds have offered free and discounted campsites and accommodations on a temporary basis. These include:
— Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission: This resort has some park models that it can make available on a temporary basis. Contact Juanita Carvajal at (956) 585-5568.
— Mockingbird Hill Manufactured Home and R.V. Park in Burleson: This park has one park model cabin available as well as one full hookup RV site. Contact Larry Pike at (817) 295-3011.
— The Vineyards Campground & Cabins in Grapevine: This park has park model cabin accommodations available on a temporary basis. Contact Joe Moore at (817) 410-3121.
— Trader’s Village Houston: This park is offering RV spaces for $386.25 per month, which is a 25% discount off the regular rate. The RV spaces include water, sewer, electricity and Wi-Fi service. Contact Suzy Wilson at (281) 890-5500.
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.
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) began its three-day Spring Convention and Tradeshow Sunday (May 6) with good news for the association’s members: TACO is growing, having added 24 more parks as members so far this year, and the association is continuing to strengthen its government affairs and marketing programs.
According to a press release, the convention kicked off Sunday afternoon at Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas, with 130 registered attendees representing about 60 private parks.
In his opening remarks to park operators, TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer said the association’s growth will further strengthen TACO’s ability to protect park operator interests in the halls of government because there is “strength in numbers,” particularly when TACO represents parks from multiple jurisdictions across Texas. He added that TACO faces continuing political battles to protect park operators from unfair tax practices involving everything from utilities to fire protection.
“We want to be treated like any other business,” Schaeffer said, adding that Ron Hinkle, TACO’s legislative advocate, is fighting to protect park operator interests in “the corridors of power.”
TACO, however, has considerable political clout in Texas, as evidenced by Sunday’s visit by Texas State Rep. Harvey Hildebrand, who briefed association members on the legislature’s recent efforts to balance the state budget. Hildebrand, who serves as chairman of the Texas Ways and Means Committee, said the Texas economy is improving and that revenue collections are up, with the latest projections indicating a $3 to $4 billion surplus in the state treasury.
Hildebrand also said that tourism remains an important funding priority for Texas, and noted that every dollar spent promoting tourism in Texas brings $7 in return.
On the marketing front, Schaeffer said TACO has recently completed significant improvements to the design and search capabilities of the association’s two consumer websites, TexasCampgrounds.com and TexasCabinRentals.net, both of which are increasingly used by consumers as vacation planning tools.
TACO has also developed mobile versions of both websites to accommodate the growing numbers of campers who access both websites from their cellular phones. As many as half of the visitors to both websites are using mobile phones, Schaeffer said, citing statistics from Austin-based TengoInternet.
TACO was scheduled to hold its general membership meeting this morning, which was to be followed by the association’s spring tradeshow with 35 vendors at the Inn of the Hills, a neighboring hotel and convention center in Kerrville.
William Henderson of Peak Energy Technology was also scheduled to provide a seminar titled “Recycling Energy and Saving Money.”
When a Dallas-based investment group bought Almost Heaven RV Resort two years ago, the 142-site park was in a pretty sad state of repair.
But, according to a press release, Almost Heaven’s new owners weren’t about to give up on the resort, which had previously been popular with Winter Texans. So they brought in Horizon RV Resorts, which has developed a reputation in the RV park business for rescuing faltering RV parks and making them profitable businesses again.
So far, the Dallas-based investment group is pretty happy with its decision.
“We brought the park back to life,” said Randy Hendrickson, Horizon RV Park’s president and CEO.
Occupancies are running 30% to 35% ahead of last winter’s figures, fueled largely by Winter Texans who decided to give the resort another try after Horizon implemented $45,000 worth of targeted cosmetic improvements.
Hendrickson also worked with Brian Schaeffer of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), who outlined a marketing strategy that included banner ads on TexasCampgrounds.com as well as prominent exposure in the Texas RV Camping and Travel Guide.
“The person who asks the loudest for the business generally gets it,” Hendrickson said.
Almost Heaven is also generating increased year-round business by offering discounts to cancer patients seeking treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Children’s Cancer Hospital and other Houston area facilities.
Looking back, Hendrickson said Almost Heaven’s downward spiral could have been avoided if the resort had kept up with its marketing and made ongoing improvements to the park. Unfortunately, he said, they got too comfortable and felt they could get away with not making these investments.
“When you stop spending money on marketing,” Hendrickson said, “people stop coming. And if they stop coming, you don’t have money to spend on infrastructure. So the business spirals.”
And if occupancies are not maintained, the parks don’t retain enough of a margin to reinvest in improvements.
“You have to show that you’re reinvesting in the property as a commitment to the guest,” Hendrickson said, adding that it didn’t take long for Almost Heaven’s guests to realize the previous owner had lost in interest in the property.