Many U.S. RV Parks Reporting Good news
During the last three years, owners of the Lawrence/Kansas City Kampground of America (KOA) in Lawrence, Kan., have transformed it from being a transient stop for campers headed elsewhere into a family playground that’s been doing pretty well lately.
"Last year was great and reservations for this year are looking up," said Harold Hays, manager of the 17-acre, 97-site park.
The transition for the Lawrence, Kan., park is continuing this season as it initiates family-themed events every day and christens two new Breckenridge loft-floorplan recreational park trailers that sleep up to eight people.
"Three years ago we were 75% 55-or-older staying one night," said Hays. "Now we are 60% under 55 with families who stay three or four nights."
This season, this KOA is organizing a craft event each morning for kids, an afternoon hayride along with an ice cream social and an outdoor evening movie. Hays also had a corn maze planted in late April and is growing a pumpkin patch for the fall.
"We are seeing a transition in the camping industry," Hays says. "The influx has changed from older folks with 40-foot motorhomes to younger folks with families in smaller campers. It's almost a rebirth of camping."
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Weekends during the summer are the busiest at Hidden Springs Campground in Flintstone, Md., reports Linda Klingerman, who owns the 23-site park with her husband, Reed. "Most of our customers are local," she said. "We get a lot of people back all the time."
However, Klingerman is apprehensive about this summer season. "I hope for good, but I have no idea how it will turn out," she said. "I'm not getting a lot of reservations, but we don't get a lot of reservations, anyway."
Klingerman said Hidden Springs benefits from the proximity of Rocky Gap State Park, which is three miles away. "A lot of time I get their overflow," she said. “People will go to the state park before they come here. But that's a draw for us because of (Lake Habeeb) in the park."
She said the campground was down, revenue-wise, last year, but camper nights were on par with other years. "We have six pavilions for local family reunions and other things. They draw a crowd and bring activity to our pool and store. People didn't book the pavilions as often last year, probably because of the economy."
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Although Harris Village RV Park in Ormond Beach, Fla., is down 40% from the peak years of 2004 and 2005, Jerald Thompson, who has owned the park for 40 years, is optimistic. “The last couple of years have been very good," Thompson said. "I'm looking forward to things turning around."
Thompson said Harris Village's fortunes often rise and fall depending on the major events going on in nearby Daytona – the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, Daytona Bike Week, Biketoberfest and other events that draw thousands to mid-Florida's East Coast.
"We don't have a lot of activities at our park, but we have a lot of activities around our park," Thompson said. "But all the local events have been down about 30%, even the Daytona 500."
When events aren't in the forefront, Harris Village is a senior park that appeals to snowbirds from October through April.
During the summer off season, the 30-site park's roads will be given a new layer of asphalt and two site-built cottages will be remodeled.
Meanwhile, the size of some RVs has become a problem for Harris Village, because of its compact nature, despite having 45-by-15 foot concrete pads, said Thompson. “Our phones ring all the time,” he said, “but we don't necessarily take everybody because we can't accommodate some of the big rigs with their big diesel trucks.”
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The spring and summer draw for Eagle Valley RV Park in Richland, Ore., located near the west entrance to the 215,000-acre Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (population 175), is fishing.
In the fall, it's hunting pheasant, quail and grouse.
Situated on the Powder River arm of the Brownlee Reservoir, Eagle Valley has 25 pull-through and 15 tent sites, and the nearby Snake River is a major draw.
"I'm full in May and most of June already," Sue Adams, who owns the park with her husband, Steve, said in May. "That's the way it always is, depending on the weather and the fishing because they regulate the water."
The park is opening year round and has several full-time residents.
"But as far as camping, no, there are no RVers here in the winter," Adams said. "We depend on tourism and the summer people who come in.'
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Although summer reservations have been a little slow coming, Mountain Gate RV Park in Redding, Calif., had the best March in the seven years that Jodi Stone and her husband, Patrick, have owned the park.
"We had Good Sam groups in three of the four weekends in March," Jodi Stone said in early May. "Memorial Day is when our season usually begins, but it's time to get things going."
After the area suffered through a three-year drought, Lake Shasta was brought back to normal levels this winter by heavy rains, and fishing is expected to again be a big draw.
The 115-site park on 20 acres in the shadow of Mount Shasta — and less than an hour from Shasta Lake — is open year round and is a stop on the snowbird route.
The area is prized for its temperate climate.
"It doesn't get cold here," Stone said. "In the winter we get a huge crowd that comes from Oregon, Washington and Canada and doesn't want to go south any further."
The park is big on recycling and Stone declares Mountain Gate to be "green" to the extent that its pool is heated by solar energy. “We have everybody recycle almost everything," she said. "We have bins all over the park for paper, cans and bottles. It's good for the environment."