The Message from Most Arizona-to-Florida Sunbelt Parks: ‘We Kept Busy this Past Winter’
An 8,700-square-foot historic mansion built in 1863 that is now a bed-and-breakfast is the centerpiece of Poche Plantation RV Resort in Condent, La. – pronounced poo-shay for the French-impaired — which features 85 concrete RV sites on 22 manicured acres.
And it has something that most any business in America might admire right now as the nation cruises through a bruising downturn: 100% occupancy since the day the RV park opened in 2005. “It’s such a unique place, we’ve had no problem with occupancy,”’ said proprietor Mark Anderson, who owns the plantation with his wife, Yvette.
Customers typically stay at the resort, located less than a half hour from New Orleans’ French Quarter, for a short time, and the RV resort is available to overnight travelers as well as vacationers. “Overnight customers aren’t traveling quite as far,” Anderson said. “And we don’t see as many of them as we did originally. Most people stay here to enjoy the area.”
Poche Plantation is surrounded by 1,600 feet of white picket fence and fronts the Mississippi River midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. “We are right in Plantation Alley,” said Anderson. It has a pool, which is never closed to adults, and water and flower fountains and a hot tub area featuring custom murals painted by a local artist depicting scenes of the South.
Besides the mansion, another 15,000 square feet are under roof on plantation property in cabins, recreation buildings, pool houses and a museum with Cajun artifacts.
The couple also hosts dinners under a crystal chandelier in the main salon for visitors.
The plantation adjoins 200-year-old St. Michael’s Church and the Grotto of Lourdes, both of which also are designated as historic sites.
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Late February is an in-between time at Geronimo RV Resort in the Florida Panhandle, located three miles east of the community of Destin. “We are just coming into our spring season,”’ said Tom Arnett, owner of the 2-year-old, 29-site park. “The snowbirds are leaving and the spring-breakers aren’t here yet.”’
Two blocks from the Gulf of Mexico in a light commercial area, Geronimo sits on 2 1/2 acres purchased 30 years ago by his uncle, Toy Arnett, pastor of the adjacent Faith Assembly Christian Church.
Tom Arnett, a general contractor and Realtor, built the park and opened it in 2007.
And while the winter season was busy, the park wasn’t full.
“It takes awhile to build the clientele,” Arnett said. “The winter season has been alright. During the major holidays, we got filled up.”
A notable feature found in most RV parks is absent at Geronimo RV Resort: a swimming pool. “Our philosophy is you came here for the ocean, sand, sun and fun so why ruin the experience,” according to the park’s website.
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Work camper Marcie Highsmith and her husband, Jim, are park hosts this winter at 68-site Sundance RV Park in the downtown area of Cortez, Colo., and already have signed on to stay through the summer.
And somewhat surprisingly, given that the park is in the high desert at an elevation of 6,200 feet, they’ve had plenty to keep themselves busy this winter. The park was about 50% occupied in late February when daytime temperatures reached into the 50s.
“We still have people that are coming through,” Marcie Highsmith said. “Often they’ll stay a couple of weeks. We have a lot of sunshine and the weather is pleasant most of the time. We get enough traffic coming through here to stay open. A lot of people who live at the higher elevations will come down here and stay the winter.”
The park is 20 miles from the “Four Corners” intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico and 10 miles west of Mesa Verde National Park, known for its cliff dwellings.
Being paid working campers, Marcie said, allows the couple to be flexible in their travels. They are spending the winter at Sundance in their 2006 39-foot KZ Montego Bay fifth-wheel.
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Snowbirds aren’t flocking as regularly to the Desert Sands RV Park in Phoenix, Ariz., which plans to change that by integrating reservations with the Internet, according to manager Royce Lewis. “We are a mom-and-pop campground,”’ he said. “We have an Internet site, but we don’t have a streamlined reservation system yet. We are going to work toward that.”
The park underwent minor renovations last summer and has grass and trees throughout, which, Lewis points out, “in Phoenix is a little hard to find.”
“This has been one of the worst Februarys that we’ve had,” added Lewis, who’s at least partly blaming the lack of an Internet reservation system for business being down this season at the 70-site park on Phoenix’ north side. “It’s all the factors – gas prices for a while and now the economy.”