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Pennsylvanians Still Buying RVs and Camping

June 6, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Experts predict camping vacations will be taking place closer to home this summer as enthusiasts will be logging fewer miles because of high gasoline prices, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa., reported.

While pump prices have been receding somewhat from an early spring peak of $4 a gallon, experts are saying campers may reduce the number of trips and find places locally to enjoy the great outdoors.

“As wild as it sounds, we haven’t seen much of a negative effect yet,” said Justin Wise, owner of Wise Sales and Service in Ebensburg.

The business sells a full range of campers from popup trailers to motorhomes.

When gas prices get to a certain point, it may have an effect, but even at $4 a gallon, Wise has not seen a decline in sales.

On the contrary, Wise has been selling larger travel trailers in the 28- to 35-foot range, while the more economical popup camper sales are waning.

Wise said $6 a gallon would be the price where people would be cautious.

Don Brumbaugh, a salesman at Wise with 18 years of experience, said the desire to camp, regardless of the price of fuel, has not dissuaded people from buying travel trailers.

“They still want to camp,” Brumbaugh said. “Our last three years have been some of the best sales we have ever experienced.”

It doesn’t surprise Brumbaugh that the majority of people are buying campers to tow, while a small percentage of the units are being placed on permanent campsites.

Mark Kutruff, owner of Kutruff Tree Service in Coalport, is a veteran camper who views fuel prices too cost-prohibitive to make long trips.

He is opting for closer jaunts and for shorter periods of time.

“We will not be going to the ocean this year like we normally do,” said Kutruff, who is married and is the father of five children. “We have compared costs of staying in a beachfront condo or hotel, and camping is our best alternative.”

Kutruff’s summer plans include stays at Prince Gallitzin State Park near Patton and Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

“We will be staying three or four days with each trip,” he said. “What I’m looking for in a campground is relaxation.”

Surprisingly, one segment of the camping industry that has nearly dried up is the lighter, less expensive popup tent campers.

“Foldup camper sales have been declining for years,” Brumbaugh said.

“Some dealers have stopped selling them.”

Wise, 31, who grew up in the family business that was started in 1975, said many people are weighing the cost- effectiveness of renting a beachfront condo for $3,000 a week once a summer versus buying a travel trailer that can be used throughout the year.

A buyer can get into a 24-foot travel trailer for around $16,000.

“At $3,000 a week for a condominium, it only takes a few years to recoup the cost of a camper,” Wise said.

Brumbaugh said travel trailers contain all the comforts of home. They offer a lifestyle that is convenient, comfortable and economical.

“When you go on vacation, you pack and unpack only once,” he said.

“People are not being tied to a tight schedule, rental car reservations or worried about delayed or canceled flights.”

He also pointed out that, given the recent rash of highly publicized bed-bug infestations in the hotel industry, knowing one’s bedding is clean and safe is a bonus.

Brumbaugh said some people may be intimidated by towing or parking a large travel trailer.

“My advice is to find an empty parking lot, designate an area to place the camper and practice, practice, practice,” he said. “People may be surprised to learn that parking a longer trailer is easier than positioning a shorter model.”

State parks and campgrounds are increasingly providing rental accommodations for people to enjoy the camping experience.

Tim Yeager, Prince Gallitzin State Park assistant manager, is anticipating an exceptional summer season.

“It was somewhat of a slow start for our campgrounds because of the spring rains, but activity is increasing steadily,” Yeager said. “With the gas prices being higher, we anticipate a bustling season, especially with attracting more local campers.”

The 401-site tent and trailer campground is open until the last Monday in October.

The park offers many amenities, including a camp store with coin-operated laundry, swimming beach, boat mooring area, boat rental, playgrounds, paved campsites, showers, flush toilets and sanitary dump stations.

The park has 10 modern cabins, but Yeager said they have been booked.

“We have three new camping cottages under construction that will provide future opportunities for people,” Yeager said. “They are one-room cottages.”

Kenneth Bisbee, Yellow Creek State Park manager, anticipates a banner year despite the poor economy.

While there are no tent or trailer campgrounds at Yellow Creek, it does boast six rental cottages and four yurts.

“If it plays out like last year, we should be looking at another record year,” Bisbee said.

“People tend to stay local when fuel prices go up, and parks are busier when the economy is slow.”

The cottages are on the lakeshore near McFeater’s Cove. They sleep up to five in single or double bunks. They have wooden floors, glass windows, a porch and electric lights.

The yards of the cottages have picnic tables and fire rings.

The yurts also sleep up to five in single or double bunks. They are a bit more modern, with each yurt having a refrigerator and stove as well as tables, chairs, and electric lights and heat.

Restrooms are nearby.

For those looking for an affordable family vacation, Camp T. Frank Soles near Rockwood is offering a special getaway from June 26 to July 2.

For $600, the 263-acre YMCA resident camp in the Laurel Highlands is offering a rustic cabin with eight bunk beds, all meals and a full list of staffed activities ranging from archery to a zip line.

Swimming and boating are available on the camp’s 18-acre lake.

In addition, the property features hiking and biking trails, campfire circles, athletic fields and indoor recreational spaces.

Camp Soles is located just a few miles from such popular regional attractions as Fallingwater; Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Nemacolin resorts; and white-water rafting on the Youghiogheny River.

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