Campgrounds Filling with Permanent Visitors
Jerry and Carolyn Wallace are living the American dream.
Retired, they have a place on Lake Logan Martin east of Birmingham, Ala., where they don't cut grass or work in the yard. Their home is a popular gathering place for their two children and five grandchildren. It's just like the couple always dreamed.
Well, almost. The Wallaces are among a growing legion of Alabamians who have said goodbye to expensive suburbia to live permanently in the tranquility of a campground, according to theOpelika (Ala.) Auburn News.
Campgrounds across Alabama are filling with permanent residents seeking a more laid-back, less-expensive lifestyle. Campground operators say retired persons looking for a bargain as well as younger adults who have fallen on hard times are finding campgrounds enticing.
"I like not having to cut grass on days like this," said Wallace, laughing. He and his wife are among about 40 permanent residents that call Lakeside Landing in Cropwell home.
"I like to fish," Wallace said. "We sold our home and purchased this 42-foot travel trailer for $30,000. It costs $450 a month to stay here. That includes water, electricity, sewer and cable.
"They cut the grass and keep the place looking beautiful. They patrol it and it's extremely safe. There's a convenience store here with a place to wash clothes. We have great neighbors.
"It is exactly what we were looking for."
Chris Jones, the owner of Safe Harbor Campground on Lake Logan Martin, says the number of people making campgrounds their home is increasing.
"In this bad economy you're going to see a lot more people going to full-time RV living," he said. "We have 55 full-time residents here now. For $150 a month you get water, sewer and electricity. Get yourself a cell phone and for $300 a month or less you get a place on Lake Logan Martin.
"There are a lot of advantages to living in a campground. We're right here at I-20 with places to eat and places to shop all around. "The only real disadvantage is that a travel trailer isn't a real good place to raise kids. Almost all of our full-time residents are retired people or people who have grown kids."
State Parks Admit Fulltimers, Too
The Alabama State Parks system, which for decades didn't allow full-time residents in its campgrounds, now allows full-time residents at Lake Guntersville State Park and Wind Creek State Park near Alexander City.
State Parks Director Mark Easterwood said pressure from campers created the change.
"In the past we made campers move their RVs to a different site every two weeks," Easterwood said. "That was to discourage permanent camping. The people that wanted to stay for months at a time or permanently didn't like that.
"Now we have designated areas at both of those parks for permanent residents."
At Wind Creek State Park, approximately 30 sites are currently full with permanent residents. They pay about $450 a month for their site that includes sewer, water and electricity.
Easterwood, as well as other campground operators, say the steady income from permanent residents is much appreciated in these tough economic times.
At Country View RV Park in Hanceville, owner John Key said he created his park with a bad economy in mind. Permanent residents are beginning to find his somewhat remote location.
He also says he's getting residents he wasn't expecting. He, along with several other campground operators, say construction companies that once put workers in hotels during long-term projects are now purchasing travel trailers and letting their workers stay in campgrounds.
"We're also getting college students from Wallace State Community College," he said. "Parents are finding that instead of putting them in apartments it's cheaper to buy a travel trailer or let them have a travel trailer they already have and let them stay here."