Happy Birthday! PCOA Marks 50 Years in 2013
Editor's Note: The following story was wrriten by Dannie Bova and appears in the July issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
The Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA), plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary at its 2013 Convention & Trade Show Nov. 11-13 at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa. As part of the trade group’s Golden Anniversary, PCOA members registering before Sept. 15 will benefit from discounted convention prices of $50 per person.
While special preparations are still underway for this fall’s convention, PCOA President Mark Wineman, of Kalyumet Campground in Lucinda, Pa., and the rest of PCOA’s leadership hope to set attendance records this year by hosting special 50th anniversary festivities and outpacing an average year’s draw of around 75 to 80 parks. Last year’s convention featured 12 educational seminars, 71 trade show exhibitors, an auction and plenty of opportunities to share and network.
As part of the effort, PCOA is also holding an online contest through which campers help determine the 50 favorite Pennsylvania attractions. Contestants can vote online at the association’s website, www.pacamping.com, once a day and are eligible to win a $250 cash prize or one of 10 camping gift certificates.
PCOA has come a long way over the past 50 years, Executive Director Beverly Gruber says of the state trade group originally founded as the Campground Owners Association of Pennsylvania (CAP) in 1963 to counter what it perceived as unfair competition from public parks. Founders, including original board members President C.R. (Dick) Sandy, Sandy’s Campground of Mercer, Pa., and Vice President Gunther P. Kaiser, Spring Gulch Campground, New Holland, also wanted to pursue a legislative agenda and spread the good word about the state’s private parks and tourist attractions.
The association’s first “Campground Owners Workshop” was held in March of 1963 at the Holiday West Hotel near Harrisburg, Pa. with 150 attendees representing 40 member campgrounds and other tourism entities.
From 1965 to 1967, member sites jumped from approximately 2,000 to 15,750 sites, reflecting the rapidly growing park arena. Today, PCOA has 239 members, most of them “mom-and-pop” operations averaging 167 campsites per park, with a total of approximately 40,000 sites.
“Probably the smartest move we’ve made in 50 years was purchasing the York Campers World RV Show,” says Gruber of the show, held in early March each year at the York Expo Center in York, Pa., with about 15 RV dealers and 60 campgrounds exhibiting. “It has helped our bottom line greatly and it has also developed our volunteer base.”
“We have a lot of members come in to help run the (York RV) Show,” she said. “It’s gone so well that now we’re doing these industry promotions, which mainly came about through getting our members involved.”
Those promotions include events at various venues, such as Cabela’s locations and the Lehigh Valley Zoo in Schnecksville, Pa., at which PCOA members make s’mores for visitors, pass out directories and talk to consumers about camping in pastoral Pennsylvania.
“For the past 50 years,” says Wineman, “the association has provided marketing, education and legislative guidance to the membership. We have grown over the years to become one of the premier state associations and PCOA is the model many other states strive to follow.”
The association has been an influential force in Pennsylvania as it has helped fight for and disseminate information about important legislation over the years. “I don’t think we can take credit for any one particular law,” commented Gruber, “although we certainly have fought some issues we felt important to the campgrounds in our state.”
According to Gruber, who has spent 30 years in her role as executive director, some of those issues include the policies and procedures regarding pesticide application and licensing for campground swimming pools, lifeguard coverage at recreational swimming pools, the certification of food handlers and campground inspection. “Through the creation of these laws, PCOA’s major role has been informing members about what to expect and helping them be prepared,” said Gruber. “We like the fact that we are the go-to source. When our members have questions, they refer to us.”
Member benefits, in turn, have improved considerably over the years. PCOA not only distributes information regarding the latest industry-related legislation in the member newsletter and online, but also offers courses for pesticide and food handlers licensing at the annual convention. The annual Pennsylvania Camping Directory, which can be found in print and online, is a marketing and promotional plus. And the association also credits the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) for providing members with additional benefits and valuable services.
Along with Wineman, the current board of directors includes Vice President Jason Vaughan, Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg; Secretary Bruce Heasley, Holiday Pines Campground, Loganton; Treasurer Jason Sheaffer, Pinch Pond Campground, Manheim; and the following regional vice presidents: Tim Chilson, Meadville KOA Kampground, Meadville; Kathy Stetler, Pioneer Campground, Laporte; Barbara Repetski, Hemlock Campground, Tobyhanna; Matt May, Presque Isle Passage RV Park & Cabin Rentals, Fairview; Deene Yenchochic, River’s Edge Camping & Cabins, Connellsville; David Mull, Shady Brook Campground, Beavertown; Ryan McFarland, Buttonwood Campground, Mexico; Timothy Cartmell, Honesdale/Pocono KOA, Honesdale; Shane Adam, Mountain Springs Camping Resort, Shartlesville; plus Director-at-Large Debby Yeager, Rose Point Park Campground, New Castle; and Gruber.