New Florida Panhandle Parks Earn Rave Reviews
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Dale and Cheryl Lesh have their next two years of vacations planned and booked.
“We have our eyes on a particular site,” Cheryl said while lounging at the pool at Destin West RV Resort in Okaloosa Island, Fla. “We love it. It’s quiet, the location’s great. We’re recommending it to friends.”
The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that the RV park opened March 9 and has been registering a steady of flow of guests, from those with reservations to visitors who just pull in off U.S. Highway 98 on Okaloosa Island.
It took two years to build the park, and now it offers guests everything from a heated pool to all the amenities offered at Ramada Plaza Beach Resort across the highway.
“In this market and this economy, I could not think of anything else for this property,” said Tripp Tolbert, who owns the RV park and the Ramada. “You can’t borrow money on raw land, so I thought this would be a great way to create steady reve-nues.”
Tolbert’s RV park is one two that have opened recently. St. Rosa Sound RV Resort in Navarre also opened March 9 with more than 80 sites, 24 of which sit along the water.
“This year will be good. Next year will be better,” said manager Jinks Dupre. “Navarre is the best kept secret in the world, so who wouldn’t want to stay right by the beautiful water. Every RV park around here has had a ‘no vacancy’ sign hanging for months.”
Dupre said her park initially was met with some criticism on whether the view of the water would be blocked, but cleaning up the foliage improved the view, she said.
The site has a pool, fitness center and laundry. It does not allow popup campers or tents.
On Okaloosa Island, Destin West features 54 RV sites, each has a picnic table and patio. The park also has a laundry room, pool and a shop with camping gear and Destin West T-shirts.
“The response has been wonderful,” said Joe Guidry, general manager of the Ramada and Destin West. “We’ve got a lot of snowbirds and families coming here for that quiet atmosphere we have.”
The park has bookings scheduled for the next two months and its projected revenue for 2012 is about $1 million.
Mary Juergens has been traveling in her RV for the past 10 years. She said Wednesday that Destin West gets five stars from her.
“I love the area, it’s so nice being by the bay,” said Juergens, of St. Cloud, Minn. “To me, the top three things a good RV park needs is laundry facility, pool and sites that are paved.
“This place has all that, plus a friendly staff.”
Tolbert said he expects to have a steady flow of visitors this summer, and plans to continue to build around the area.
“I’m trying to create a destination site on Okaloosa Island,” Tolbert said. “I want people to be able to come here and not have to get back in their cars until they leave. We want everything they need to be right here.”