Texas Park Owners Respond to Growing Need
A growing number of North Texas RV campgrounds have announced major renovations in the past year in light of growing business from ‘staycations’ and more affordable gas prices – the latest of which is Grapevine’s Vineyards Campgrounds, which will see $1.7 million in improvements, according to the Fort Worth Business Press.
Grapevine City Council members approved the improvement plans to expand Vineyards Campgrounds, a city-owned camping area on Lake Grapevine’s southern shore. The expansion will include the addition of cabins and RV sites to the 52-acre park at 1501 North Dooley St.
Joe Moore, assistant director of parks and recreations for Grapevine, said the Vineyards is outperforming in this economic recession.
”We kind of think that what happened, as everybody has said, there was a little bit of a bubble here, but there are 7 million people in the area and 18% of those people have a travel trailer or an RV and with the cost of gas and the overall cost of living, people don’t want to drive to Colorado. So they go for the staycation,” Moore said. “And we’re the beneficiaries of that.”
And the Vineyards is not alone.
Brian Schaeffer, with The Texas Association of Campground Operators (TACO) based in Crowley, said there are 400 member parks statewide and 25 in North Texas. And at a recent member meeting, most campground owners reported strong business levels this year.
“There are so many things happening right now in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, what with the stadium in Arlington and the Super Bowl coming up,” Schaeffer said. “Add that in to the other venues like TMS [Texas Motor Speedway] and each community with their own events, it’s no wonder they’re reporting good things.”
Schaeffer said several local campground owners reported 5% to 10% increases in their first quarter 2010 and the Dallas/Arlington Kampgrounds of America reported business is up 30% to date this year.
“Knock on wood, things are going well,” he said. “We’re blessed that people enjoy the lifestyle and it’s still the most economical way to get out with your family and have good, clean fun.”
The bump in interest in Metroplex campsites has caused several to invest in improvements and expansions, Schaeffer said.
Burleson’s Rustic Creek Ranch recently made headlines with plans for a $2.5 million improvement project, including adding an amphitheatre and a franchise agreement with Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, an RV park chain.
Rustic Creek Ranch owner Ronnie Bowyer announced plans for the renovations in October 2009, citing strong occupancy.
The 70-acre park has 248 sites for tents or RVs and another 37 cottages that hold between two and six people
The improvements include installation of decorative paving and curbing of campsites throughout the park as well as construction of a playground, a covered picnic area, complete with barbecue grills and electrical outlets for cooking, a dog run and a 150-seat outdoor amphitheatre.
Schaeffer said like Rustic Creek, many local park owners are focusing on adding more family-friendly activities and events because of plummeting demographics.
“Parks are striving to be more family friendly,” he said. “Demographics over the last 15 years have come down. Where 15 years ago we were solid in the 60-plus demographic, now we’re solid in the 45 to 60 demographic – and a lot of these upgrades are geared toward more things with kids and grandkids.”
Moore agreed, adding that Vineyards is adding more family friendly events to its roster.
“The crowd is younger and you have to respond to that,” Moore said. “We’re trying to focus on that with activities on Fridays and Saturdays. You know, free ice cream or snow cones and bands out there.”
At Dallas/Arlington KOA, a member of the Montana-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. organization, two lodges were added in late 2009 in response to recent growth. Verona Rojas, bookkeeper at Dallas/Arlington KOA, said the 16-acre facility also has performed several upgrades recently and plans for future developments have been tossed around.
“We’re always in discussions for a bigger playground area or other improvements, it’s a constant process, but nothing is set in stone at this point,” she said.
Schaeffer said much of the demand for Metroplex RV camp sites comes from other Lone Star residents.
“We have a lot of RVers going cross country or just getting out and about and many of them are staying closer to home than they have before,” he said. “And Texas, being as large as it is, two-thirds of the RVers in Texas are Texans. It’s not uncommon for them to come into town for a Ranger’s game or Lone Star Park. You name it, we’ve got it.”
Schaeffer said the local improvements that have been announced will surely be followed by more of the same as the local RV and campground business continues to flourish.
“It’s a growing market – there’s no denying that,” Shaeffer said.