There's Plenty of Positive Signs for 2010 Season

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July 12, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Bob Ashley

Most of the signals Joy Cordray is noticing for the current season are pretty positive, and she’s optimistic about the summer season after operating White River RV Park & Campground in Monaque, Mich., for 35 years with her husband, Jim.

"We've run the gamut in the last 35 years," said Cordray, whose 232-site park is located on 150 acres 10 miles inland from Lake Michigan about 60 miles north of Grand Rapids.

For one thing, Cordray’s park was full over the Memorial Day weekend. "I'm looking forward to that through Labor Day," she said. "The situation definitely is looking good."

Secondly, there are signs at White River RV Park that the general economy is turning around. Cordray says her daughter, who does the buying for the park's store, "told me last week that compared to last year, people are spending."

And thirdly, the Cordrays, who added new asphalt to the park's interior roads during the off-season, are seeing more out-of-town travelers than last year. "People are on the move," Cordray said. "People may adjust their distances, but they are still going to go. You cannot take recreation away from the people."

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Mountain Stream RV Park about five miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Marion, N.C., is off the beaten path and has seen less business during the last couple of years than owner Ron Johnson would like.

“Reservations are down a little bit this year, but we are ahead of last year in occupancy," said Johnson, who has owned the 35-site park on 4 1/2 acres with his wife, Becky, for seven years.

"We are seeing fewer reservations being made four or five months out and more that are being made four or five weeks out," Johnson reported, adding that there's been "a little drop" in out-of-state RVers at Mountain Stream RV Park.

On its face, said Johnson, being relatively remote has its benefits and detriments. "We don't have many people who just find us," he said. "On the flip side of that, we don't get very many one-nighters. People come for long weekends or for a week or two."

Then again, being so does present some technological challenges, said Johnson, who had the park rewired and 50-amp electrical service and cable TV added over the winter. "In the past, we had to become our own cable company," he said. "We lost a fair amount of business because we didn't have cable. Roughing it now is not having cable RV or Wi-Fi at the campsite."

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The winter season was good to Rancho Sonora Inn and RV Park located in a Sonoran desert valley in Florence, Ariz., according to owner Linda Freeman.

"In the winter we were full," said Freeman of her park, which has 65-full-service-sites and 10 "overflow" pads with water and electric only.

The park doesn't fit the typical setting that comes to mind when one thinks about deserts. "We have lots of vegetation here, actually," Freeman said. "We are in a rural environment which people are increasingly interested in."

Adjacent to the Pinal Pioneer Parkway, Rancho Sonora also features an adobe inn circa 1930 that Freeman purchased in 1993. The cottages are surrounded by towering saguaro cacti and feature a walled courtyard with an outdoor heated pool. She built the adjacent RV park in 1996.

"It works out nicely for people who want family and friends to visit them who don't have an RV," Freeman said. "The inn is an Arizona original."

With 10 full-time residents, the park is mostly vacant during the summer when temperatures typically reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The economy, however, has led more people to leave their RVs at the park during the summer so they don't have the expense of hauling them back and forth. "I've got about 20 people who left their rigs this year who will come back in the fall," Freeman said.

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Harvey Robinson, owner of Cool Pines RV Park in Pagosa Springs, Colo., describes his park as being located "60 miles from nowhere." More specifically, the 22-site park on nine acres that opened in 1998 is 60 miles east of Durango, Colo., at 7,500 feet elevation in the San Juan Mountains.

As such, it has become a seasonal park for people from Arizona, Texas, California and Oklahoma trying to escape the summer heat.

"About two-thirds of my sites are seasonal," said Robinson, who runs the park with his wife, Jean. "That's not what I wanted, but that's the way it happened. I could make more money by renting half my sites overnight than renting them out as seasonals. We don't get many kids. We're more of a destination park."

The park opens in March or April — "Somewhere in there where we don't have to plow," Robinson said in early June. "It snowed last week, but summer is here right now, or spring — whatever you want to call it."

Because the park is small and because of the large percentage of returning guests, Cool Pines RVers are a tight knit group, many go out together for pizza one night a week and there are dinners out on Friday night, followed by a Saturday breakfast in the clubhouse. "They all know each other, and when someone has a problem, they always help them out,” he noted.

To diversify the grounds a bit, there's fly-fishing store on the property and Robinson recently rented out a building for an art studio. "I don't know how that's going to go, but there will be some people interested in that."

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Fishing is the main attraction at Twin Rivers Vacation Park in Roseburg, Ore., so-named because the north and south forks of the Umpqua River meet in a county park about a quarter of a mile away.

"There's almost always at least two and sometimes five different types of fish that are running in the river every month," said Vickie Bryant, who has owned the 74-site park for six years

Situated 70 miles south of Eugene, the park has welcomed each of the previous five seasons an increase in visitors. However, through early June, that wasn't the case.

“This is the first year it's been a little slower in this time frame," she said. "But a lot of that is attributable to the weather and the economy starting to hit me a little bit. We've had more rain than any time since I've been here."

Having said that, Bryant said she’s had more cancellations in the last three months than in any of the previous six years. She attributes that, however, to parents and grandparents not wanting to spend a rainy weekend in an RV with children who would rather be home watching TV or playing video games.

She also figures that some of the people who had time to camp last summer were drawing unemployment insurance from the state of Oregon. "Now it's a year later and their benefits are running out," Bryant said.

She said her suppliers have even noticed that the Oregon economy isn't very robust. "My propane guy was saying that lots of people are installing wood stoves or they are cutting back on fuel."

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