INSIDE THE BELTWAY
This column usually is devoted to activities on the federal level involving government recreation, travel, public lands, transportation and other similar programs that impact the commercial park sector. This month, I’m taking the liberty to focus briefly on two trends that I’ve noticed that are having significant impact on the RV park and campground industry.
I’m sure many readers receive industry e-newsletters from a variety of sources, particularly RV Business, the RV Daily Report and perhaps also the Woodalls Campground Management daily. And many also receive the weekly Campground E News.
If you read these e-mail publications regularly, you can’t help but notice two important trends. First, state park systems as well as other public park jurisdictions across the U.S. are stepping up their game in the RV park and campground arena. Repeatedly, these publications are reporting on public parks adding full hookups to sites, offering cabins ranging from bare-bones to full service, paving RV sites, combining small sites to offer larger sites, increasing rates, offering special events and in other ways simply becoming more and more like commercial RV parks.
- State parks explore corporate sponsorship – Faced with widening budget gaps, many states are seeking private companies to sponsor state park facilities, programs or the entire park system, the Associated Press reported. One state – Utah – announced it was going to seriously consider outsourcing the operation of all of its state parks to a management company.
- Michigan state parks keep up with times – Writing for the Midland Daily News, Steve Griffin says camping is different than it once was. In various ways, Michigan state parks offer amenities to meet the wants of modern campers.
- Colorado town considers town-owned RV park – In Colorado, town officials are looking at ways to accommodate overnight RV parking. One way is a town-owned RV park.
- State of Missouri seeks donations to help rebuild state park – State park officials plan to invest $100,000 in the cleanup effort in order to reopen the campground and eight cabins at Big Lake State Park by Labor Day as well as temporarily relocate the convenience store, the Kansas City Star reported
And the new America’s State Parks website organized by the National Association of State Parks is a national information service for travelers looking for information about RVing and camping in state parks. If you’ve not done so, take a minute or two to visit www.americasstateparks.com. It’s the state park version of ARVC’s Go Camping America.
Is it time for state parks to be invited into the industry associations on the same basis as commercial parks? Each individual state park that has a campground is invited to join the state and national associations and state park managers and state park executives are welcome on the same playing field as commercial park managers and company executives. What do you think? Should we try to bring the state parks into the industry tent?
The second noticeable trend seems to be an increase in the number of new parks being planned, approved or built around the U.S. Whether these new projects are merely press releases or actual projects is uncertain, but there seems to be at least an uptick in the number of new projects coming on line.
- New Wyoming RV park brings luxury to camping – A new RV park is open in Casper, Wyo. River's Edge RV & Cabins Resort is a large campground that features oversized spaces for ease of maneuvering campers and RVs.
- County gives speedway RV park a green light in Colorado – In Colorado, Mesa County Commissioners gave the go-ahead for a series of new developments at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway, including a 75-space RV park.
- New campground gets OK in South Carolina – Hucks Limited Partnership wants to build an 111-site campground on 34.55 acres.
- Michigan campsite park looking to expand – A 42-campsite park in Pinconning, Mich., is looking to expand its footprint in the coming year, to between 92 and 142 sites.
And from my own first-hand experience, the number of new parks in the planning phase is certainly encouraging. As I write this column, I’m aware of new park projects in Virginia, North Carolina and at least four locations in Florida. With some 10 to 11 million RVs on the roads, and with RVers continually seeking new places and modern facilities and amenities, the future of the park accommodations industry seems secure. It will be interesting to see what ARVC’s 2010 National Economic Study shows in terms of private investment into existing parks.
Coming on the heels of the recession, these two trends are encouraging for the future of the park industry. Outdoor recreation is increasingly popular, fueled by affordability, the “green” movement, and government and private sector leadership in promoting outdoor recreation as a positive factor in reducing obesity and encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle.
The face of the park industry may be changing. It will be interesting to see how these trends – more and better campgrounds in the public sector, new parks and improved older parks in the private sector – play out in the coming years. Could the park industry be moving towards in the direction of the hotel industry with more brands, bigger and better parks and fewer small independent parks?
What are your thoughts?