National School Transitioning to New Course Format
The “aha” moment at this year’s National School of RV Park and Campground Management for Dawn Harnish, a campground operator from Pennsylvania, came when an instructor pointed out the hidden marketing potential of the historic mill located on her property.
“He helped me change the way I look at the park,” Harnish told Woodall’s Campground Management. The picturesque mill was a major reason she and her husband, Greg, bought the 32-site Ye Olde Mill Campground, in Burnt Cabins, Pa., located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike an hour west of Harrisburg, six years ago. But the mill, though still in working condition, had become in a way just another building on their property, she conceded. Because of the creative marketing challenge she got at the school, she said she will probably ditch her original activities schedule for this coming season and redouble her attention to the mill and its historic appeal.
“We’re going to focus on old fashion fun,” she said.
For example, instead of having ice cream socials with purchased ice cream, she’ll likely make the ice cream on site, giving campers an up-close-and-personal look at an American tradition.
Urging students to take a fresh or different look at their campgrounds is one of the key features of the national school, which was held Feb. 21-26 at the Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, W.Va., according to Mark Maciha (shown at right), chairman of the board of regents.
The School of RV Park & Campground Management has been offered annually since its inception in 1994 to benefit members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and others. From the school’s beginning, ARVC tried to educate all that have an interest in the profession and those that would like to improve their operations. The ARVC Foundation is a co-sponsor of the school. The school offers park owners, operators and managers a structured program covering a wide array of management and operations topics, including finance and administration, marketing, customer service, recreation management, maintenance, personnel management, retail and food service operations.
Program in Transition
This year’s session drew 94 students: 49 in their first year, 37 who came back for their second year and eight in the graduate program.
The program is in a major state of transition, as the traditional CPO program is being phased out this year and replaced with the new four-tiered Outdoor Hospitality Education Program (OHEP), which places each enrollee into a program tier appropriately based on their experience and knowledge of the industry. The four tiers are associate, generalist, professional and executive.
To gain credentials for each tier, participants are required to submit a completed tier specific task book and accompanying portfolio for review by a committee. This committee will either request additional information or recommend to ARVC Education that the credential be awarded.
Anyone applying for enrollment in the Outdoor Hospitality Education Program is then recognized as an Outdoor Hospitality Candidate (OHC) and receives recognition from ARVC for their interest in expanding their knowledge, skills and abilities as they relate to the industry.
It’s been a big change for the school but it’s working well, Maciha says.
“The core content remained the same but our delivery shifted dramatically,” Machia explained. “Rather than teach a lot of short courses, we combined several into one, such as emergency planning and risk management. Conflict resolution, guest relations and social media were all rolled into one and we taught a 3-hour package to help make the connections between those individual disciplines. We tried to bring the topics to life and really present them how the students would use them in the field.”
“The interesting thing was implementing the change and providing hands-on instruction rather than a standard lecture format,” said Maciha.
Maciha brings a unique career, all in service in the public sector, to the school. He entered the outdoor hospitality industry in 1979 with the National Park Service (NPS) and at one time managed the NPS’s largest collection of campgrounds: the 10-campground complex in Death Valley, which boasted some 2,000 campsites. Now the director of the park ranger training program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz, he is the longest serving member of the school’s board of regents.
He noted that about a third of this year’s class hailed from government-owned parks, primarily city and county parks, including parks from Orange County and San Diego in Southern California, the city of Houston and several Marine-run campgrounds.
Several Native American reservations that operate campgrounds also sent representatives to this year’s school.
Fire Enters Course Curriculum
Graduate student Tammy Westrich, co-owner of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Austin, Minn., happened to be the subject of a portion of the emergency planning class. The building that houses her campground’s office and several services burned to the ground one night last October while the owners were away.
“My park was discussed many times and people asked me about it” she said. “A lot of people are going home and asking about their insurance policies. I will be the first one to say, ‘Please, use my park as an example. Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you can rebuild at today’s prices as well as ADA specification prices.’”
As for course content, Westrich, who had been an outspoken critic of some aspects of the school in earlier years, said the revamped course content is excellent. “The school was dynamite! We need to get the word out more about the Oglebay School.”
It’s not too early to begin thinking about the 2013 school. Classes will be held Feb. 19-23. For more information, contact Barb Youmans, ARVC senior director of membership and education, at (303) 681-0401 ext. 118.