Cottage Living Grows in Florida’s RV Parks
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John Palasek has enjoyed the RV lifestyle for many years. He started with a pop-up camper in 1971 but moved up to bigger and more luxurious recreational vehicles over the years as he traveled the country.
But the snowbird from Maryland recently said goodbye to the open road, though not the vehicle or the recreation, when he bought an RV site not far from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Palasek replaced his motor home with a “cottage RV” — a 400-square-foot park model trailer that’s extra wide and not designed to be moved often — when in February he bought a small lot in Elite Resorts at Citrus Valley, a resort campground in southeast Lake County.
“We still get the RV lifestyle, like seeing different people with different stories,” he said of the decision to rein in his wanderlust and return to the same campground each year. “Plus there’s entertainment on Saturday nights, group dinners, potlucks, games and activities — it’s kind of like a big resort where you can have fun, versus a house where you’re going to watch TV and fall asleep.”
Citrus Valley began selling its RV sites two years ago and has sold about 15% of the 305 lots, which start at $55,900 and come with park amenities such as a pool, cable television, Wi-Fi Internet access and planned activities.
“We were motivated by people’s desire to own the lot,” said Eduard Mayer, chairman of Elite Resorts Management. His Salt Springs-based company owns four campgrounds in Florida and has been offering the ownership option at its other resorts for the past five years.
“People want to know … who their neighbors are, and leave their rig,” Mayer said. “There’s a general trend to make life simpler. They don’t want to pull the rig, especially with the cost of fuel. They can go on the weekends or in season, and they knew where they are going.”
He noted that the resorts also have a program through which lot owners can offer their sites for rent when they aren’t using them.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) estimates that about 2% of the nation’s 8,000 or RV parks and resorts have begun selling individual sites. While exact ownership figures have not been compiled in Florida, an estimated 30 to 40 of the state’s 1,100 licensed RV parks offer lots for sale, according to Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Cornwell said that, while the recession and historically high gas prices have not had a serious effect on the number of RV campers visiting Florida — some parks have even reported increases, he said — campers these days tend to travel shorter distances to their chosen destinations.
Residential construction, meanwhile, has been crowding out RV parks. According to Mayer, the Disney area alone has lost about 3,000 RV lots in the past five years. And getting government approvals for a new park can be very expensive and time-consuming, he said. For example, a park the company is building in Tarpon Springs has cost $200,000 and taken more than a year for government consents before engineering work could begin.
For Palasek, Citrus Valley’s proximity to Disney World was what drew him in after he decided to own an RV site and had looked at other campgrounds with lots for sale.
“We decided Mickey Mouse, Disney and the area has a lot to offer, so we sold our motor home and purchased a lot and trailer,” he said. “It’s a fantastic facility and only going to get better.”