The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) has alerted members of Congress that cash-strapped cities, counties and states are increasingly attempting to impose property taxes on recreational park trailers or “park models” in violation of federal law.
“This is probably the biggest single state and national issue facing our industry today,” Jeff Sims, ARVC’s director of state relations and program advocacy, stated in a news release.
Sims joined 27 private campground operators and industry officials in personally alerting 123 members of Congress and their staffs about illegal state and local efforts to tax park trailers during their May 8-9 visits to legislators on Capitol Hill. The meetings were arranged in conjunction with ARVC’s annual National Issues Conference,
The ARVC delegation also personally briefed members of Congress on ARVC positions regarding a variety of other issues ranging from onerous rules and requirements involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to defunding of national parks, highways and tourism promotion.
“We had two days’ worth of very productive meetings,” Sims said, adding that private park operators and industry officials prefaced their congressional meetings by reviewing their talking points with David Ransom of McDermott, Will & Emery, ARVC’s government relations counsel.
Sims said it was important to brief legislators on state and local attempts to circumvent congressional mandates and impose property taxes on recreational park trailers because they are increasingly being used by consumers as vacation cottages and by private park operators as rental accommodations.
“The intent is to educate legislators so they know what’s going on,” Sims said. “Recreational park trailers are for recreational purposes only. They are not meant to be affixed to the property in any way. They do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences. In fact, recreational park trailers are titled and licensed as motor vehicles by the various states.”
And unlike real property, which can appreciate over time, park trailers depreciate over time, Sims said. “A recreational park trailer is like a pickup,” he said. “It’s a vehicle that’s licensed. It’s not meant to enhance the value of a property.”
In fact, Sims said, recreational park trailers are built in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5 Recreational Park Trailer Standard, not the HUD requirements that manufactured homes are mandated to comply with. “Recreational park trailers are not manufactured housing,” Sims said, adding, “there is no practical difference between the use of recreational park trailers and travel trailers or fifth wheels.”
Other Issues Raised
In addition to briefing legislators on illegal efforts to tax recreational park trailers, private campground operators outlined ARVC’s positions on several other issues, including:
- Fair implementation of ADA guidance on swimming pools and spas: ARVC believes that public accommodations should be permitted to store portable pool lifts and deploy them when they are requested by disabled people. ARVC also supports H.R. 203, introduced by Rep. Mike Mulvaney, R-S.C., which would explicitly state that portable pool lifts are ADA compliant.
- Support for the national parks: The national parks could face a reduction in visitor services, hours of operation and a shortening of seasons as a result of federal budget sequestration. ARVC supports funding that allows national parks to be properly staffed and maintained.
- Promotion of travel and tourism: ARVC supports legislation and policies intended to increase travel and tourism in the U.S., including visa waiver programs that allow foreign visitors to experience America’s national treasures. The U.S. travel and tourism industry is a major component of the nation’s GDP and employment, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.4 million jobs directly connected to the travel and tourism industry.
- Support for America’s roads and highways: ARVC supports funding for federal highways and urges Congress to maintain support for the Scenic Byways Program.
Based in Denver, Colo., ARVC is the only national trade association exclusively representing the interests of privately-owned RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Membership is comprised of RV park and campground owners and operators, industry suppliers, franchisers and others committed to promoting the growth and welfare of the RV park and campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry through development and implementation of legislative, regulatory, educational and promotional programs and activities. ARVC is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
David Gorin is the former president of ARVC and is currently the president of Best Parks in America and the principal of David Gorin Associates LLC. He wrote this column which appears in the April issue of Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). He can be reached by e-mail at david@bestparksinamerica.
It’s pretty common knowledge that February and March are really busy months for the park industry, no matter where you might be. In the Sunbelt, it’s the height of the winter season where parks are going full blast and hopefully full occupancy. In the northern tier of the country, parks are busy with booths at RV and camping shows in their market areas and with state and regional association conventions. Just ask Jeff Sims how busy he is from mid-February to the end of March!
There are two important industry events that seem to float a bit below the radar of most of the industry – the annual session of the National School of RV Park & Campground Management held the third week of February and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Annual Meeting, typically held in early March.
I was pleased to be able to attend both meetings and would like to share some observations with you on these two events.
The National School
I’d like to think that one of the most significant legacies of my role in the industry since 1987 is the National School of RV Park & Campground Management held annually since 1994 at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W.Va. The recently concluded session was No. 20. We estimate that more than 1,000 individual parks have had owners, managers and other personnel attend the school over the years.
One of the most frequently asked questions about the school is “how did the school wind up at Oglebay and not in a more central and accessible location?”
The quick answer: Oglebay is part of a public park system – one of the first in the nation that operated under a rule that said it must be self-sufficient and not rely on tax dollars. Early on, the professional park executives at Oglebay realized that they had to develop a year-round base of visitors to keep the facilities operating and financially viable. So they added a holiday light festival that became one of the East’s most popular tour destinations between Thanksgiving and late January. These folks also decided that they had expertise in the park business that could help other public park systems improve their operations. This led them into doing consulting, and that led to a relationship with North Carolina State University and thus Oglebay became home to a number of NC State and other recreation-oriented schools throughout the winter months. A great strategy for asset management. In 1992, when the National Association of Campground Owners was looking for assistance in creating hospitality training programs, Al Daniels, owner of Normandy Farms Family Campground in Massachusetts, received a training video produced by the Oglebay Department of Continuing Education, headed up by Bill Koegler and Lisa Railing. To make a long story short, Al forwarded the video to NCOA headquarters and the contact with Lisa about the video led to a visit to Oglebay and thus the School of RV Park & Campground Management was born.
The key players in the early days included Al Daniels, the chairman of the new foundation; Erv Banes, president of the National Association of Campground Owners and a park owner from Frankenmuth, Mich.; and Herb Strauss, a national board member and NCOA treasurer; and yours truly. We were joined by representatives of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. (Please forgive me if the titles are not quite right – been a long time).
Right from the outset, Oglebay provided very important administrative and early financial support and they continue to do so to this day. With the experience of operating many schools for many years, they have the infrastructure and systems in place to efficiently manage and operate many aspects of the school. In addition, the resort itself has been a model in meeting changing consumer wants and needs, keeping up to date and reinvesting in its facilities and amenities, all providing an excellent laboratory for hosting the park school.
And that’s why the school is at Oglebay and hopefully will remain there for many years to come. It is a retreat center, a resort, a hospitality laboratory and a wonderful school host – perfect for an RV park and campground management school.
The just finished school session that concluded on Feb. 24 is perhaps the most outstanding session the school has experienced. There was a sense of purpose and seriousness among the students, that combined with a positive and energetic spirit, we haven’t often seen in years past. The student body is as diverse as can be imagined in this industry ranging from younger men and women moving into family businesses, a Desert Storm and Iraqi war veteran building a new park, several students from Native American tribes in Utah, to owners or managers of large independent or franchised parks.
And the school faculty really hit its stride this year. It’s always been an excellent group of volunteer instructors but this year the combination of this student body and this faculty seemed to jell just a step ahead of previous years. This year’s school session seemed to be a home run.
Having praised this year’s school, I must admit that the real word on how good the school was has yet to be received. Each year, the students evaluate each class and provide feedback on content and teaching. Takes some thick skin to read those evaluations some times but I’m anxious to see if the student feedback matches my comments on the quality of this year’s school.
Secrets to Success
When I think about what contributed to the success of the school this year, what was new and different? There are two significant factors that come to mind.
First, the connection among students through a closed student and instructors only Facebook page created, monitored and motivated by Board of Regents Member and instructor Tracie Fisher was a great innovation this year. I think this Facebook communication played a key role in building and fostering relationships among the students and between instructors and students before, during and after the school. I think it was a major contributor to the spirit and seriousness of this year’s school. Thanks to Tracie for introducing this social media connection to the school.
The other significant factor this year was the week-long presence of Karl Littman, owner of a Virginia campground, school graduate and advocate, and chairman of the ARVC Foundation. Karl’s personality and persona, his enthusiasm for the school, his public comments and speaking, his youthfulness that matched many of the students, his great big smile throughout the week and his regular visits to the library late at night to work with the students all made him a star for the week and added greatly to the spirit that pervaded the school campus. Thanks, Karl, for devoting your week to promoting the school and the Foundation. It’s good to have someone at the helm of the Foundation that really “gets it” and can convey the message.
Facebook and Karl Littman: the new sauce on an already great recipe for success.
Thinking of coming to Oglebay? Feb. 20-25, 2014. See you there?
The RVIA Annual Meeting
I remember former RVIA President David Humphries once telling me that one of his principals of association management was whatever the association board decides is important enough to do, must be done thoroughly and the right way from the outset. Anything less, any cutting corners, means it’s not all that important and it’s an activity that should be skipped.
Although Dave is now happily (I expect) in retirement, his successor as RVIA president, Richard Coon, and the entire RVIA operation surely continues to subscribe to that philosophy. And the RVIA Annual Meeting I attended on March 4 and 5 surely reflected the importance and the serious nature RVIA attaches to its annual meeting.
Although there were less than 100 people at the meeting, from my perspective, it was truly a first rate experience in every way. Outstanding presentations by speakers Jim Rogers of KOA, an economic outlook presentation by Dr. Lowell Catlett and a panel of top industry executives from the dealers, bankers, manufacturers and suppliers highlighted an information-packed morning session.
Jim Rogers is a charismatic speaker and an excellent spokesperson for the camping sector. There’s probably no one better to keep the RV manufacturers in the loop and help them understand the campground sector. It is generally quite refreshing to see a new interest among manufacturers in the park business. For many years, there seemed little interest in our business. Whatever the reason for the new outlook, it’s certainly appreciated.
The actual membership annual meeting included carefully constructed and expertly delivered details of RVIAs activities over the last year. Excellent RVIA updates provided by Richard Coon, Mac Bryan (RVIA’s vice president of administration and essentially their CFO), and Jim Ashurst (RVIA’s vice president of marketing/advertising and the head of Go RVing) covered the most important areas of association activities. And a special presentation by the president of the American Recreation Coalition, Derrick Crandall, on the outlook for outdoor recreation on public lands was outstanding, providing the industry with a complete picture of this important topic. With public lands being a primary place RVers travel to, the ability and receptivity of these lands to camping, campgrounds and RVs are critical.
I was quite taken by the financial report. RVIA is the custodian of a very healthy reserve, approaching $21 million if my recollection is correct. With an annual budget of over $8 million, having 2.5 times operating budget in reserve really is at the top of the scale in the association world. With it, RVIA is in a solid position to weather the economic downturns that may come along but is also well positioned to take every advantage of circumstances and conditions.
Coming out of the recession, the meeting was upbeat with a bit of caution in the air. The Class A motorhome sector is showing signs of a somewhat resurgence. The towable sector is carrying the industry. RVIA’s manufacturing membership is down from a peak of around 105 to now about 67. Richard Coon pointed out that at its peak, on average manufacturers were selling around 2,500 units a year; today, with fewer manufacturers and rising sales, the average has risen to about 4,500 units per manufacturer. So fewer manufacturers serving a growing market hopefully will lead to stronger companies better positioned to face any future economic disruptions and possibly able to step up product research and innovation – the backbone of any real expansion of the industry.
One interesting discussion heard in the hallways and over lunch centered on how to remove some of the hassle factor that accompanies the ownership of an RV. Jim Rogers in his presentation talked about all of the buttons, switches, gauges and dials, the need for more new owner training and simplifying the life of the RVer. Many retirees that own RVs take on that ownership as their new job. Younger owners who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours preparing, fixing, adding or subtracting from their RV are likely to find the rig to be a real hassle then a pleasure. Maybe I’m reading my own views into the conversations that I heard, but be that as it may, in many cases the hassle factor is impacting on sales – especially of motorhomes.
Congratulations to RVIA on not only a successful Annual Meeting, but a good kick a– year!
Two great events – the management school and the RV Industry meeting. Two views of the industry from different perspectives.
When the much-feared federal government’s sequestration went into effect on March 1, Jimmy Felton was fit to be tied.
The owner of the Misty River Campground in Townsend, Tenn., a 72-site campground on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, wasn’t certain of his park’s immediate future, thanks to the sequestration (or sequester) which brought forth several campground closings in the nearby national park and numerous other cutbacks across all federally owned lands.
Felton, who also is president of the Tennessee Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, stated, “The campgrounds in Tennessee will be happy to accommodate everybody looking for a camping spot. We still want you to enjoy your vacation. If Uncle Sam doesn’t want you in their campgrounds, we would love for you to come to ours.”
Felton was undoubtedly speaking for all private campground owners in the U.S., both those located near national parks as well as those located on popular routes leading to the national lands who stood to lose business if fewer travelers make their ways to the federal lands this spring and summer.
“In two weeks this will probably be over with,” he said with a tone of optimism. “The lucky part for us in Tennessee, we’re in the off-season. Until springtime, this (cutbacks) won’t affect us much. If this is still going on Memorial Day weekend, that may be different.”
“The main problem is none of the politicians on either side (party) are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re behaving like spoiled little kids. If private industry worked like the government, we’d all be in trouble,” he said.
Across the outdoor hospitality industry, others may not have been as upset as Felton as they saw sequestration join the list of factors, such as a tepid economic recovery and unseasonably high gas prices, that could bite into the coming camping season. But there was still concern.
Max Hammer, owner of Beaver Lake Campground in Custer, S.D., was preparing for the opening of his 2013 season on March 15 and was hopeful the sequestration would be a non-factor.
His 99-site park is located in the Black Hills in the southwest corner of the state, in the shadow of Mount Rushmore National Monument and within a 90-minute drive of four other national parks or monuments.
“A great deal of our guests come to the Black Hills because of the national parks. If people are concerned about national parks being open, they will direct their summer trips somewhere else, like the Wisconsin Dells or Branson, which would affect our park,” he speculated.
“According to my source at Mount Rushmore, who was allowed to speak freely, there will be no impact at our five state/region federal parks until about May 1st. Park managers are then planning scaling back elective or proposed programs equal to funding. The public will not see a difference. Rather, they will see 2012 again,” Hammer told Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM).
“The word ‘closed’ will not be used in any fashion for any facility. Hours of operation may be shortened, ranger-led programs may not be scheduled as often and tour times may not be as often for smaller facilities such as the Minuteman Missile Site,” he explained.
“In this scenario,” Hammer concluded, “I do not fear the sequester – I welcome it. I do fear the mainstream media hype to a ‘sky is falling’ scenario.”
As the sequestration surfaced, Hammer was anticipating a good season.
“Reservations are very strong. Our campground is starting to develop into quite a destination. Half of our traffic is repeats, returns and referrals,” he said.
Traffic counts were up around 5% in 2012 across the state and he anticipated a good year in 2013 as well.
“Everybody has settled into higher fuels prices and getting used to it,” he said. In fact, he predicted that traffic counts “will remain the same or grow a little more statewide, even if there are reductions in National Park Service (NPS) services.”
At his park he made many improvements for the coming season to better serve his guests, some of whom stop there on their way to and from Yellowstone National Park.
Impact Around Yellowstone National Park Could be Huge
RV parks and campgrounds located at or near the gateways to Yellowstone National Park were still closed for the season when WCM tried to reach them and thus unavailable for comment, but the impact could be considerable there.
Yellowstone Park managers have to trim $1.75 million from Yellowstone’s $35 million annual budget, which will delay the opening of most entrances to America’s first national park by two weeks.
Local tourism industry leaders are not happy with the decision, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. A delay in the park’s traditional early May opening and other service reductions could mean millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenues for small, rural towns in Montana and Wyoming.
“I think it’s counterproductive, and I expect a lot of people to be raising hell,” said Mike Darby, whose family owns the Irma Hotel in downtown Cody, Wyoming, at the east gate of Yellowstone.
A two-week delay in Yellowstone’s opening means Cody will miss out on more than 150,000 visitors spending an estimated $2.3 million, according to figures released by the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce. Similar shortfalls in four other gateway towns around the park could put total losses from a two-week delayed opening at more than $10 million.
Plenty of Camping Options In California
Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), said she anticipates the sequester could help CalARVC parks located near national lands.
“We suspect those parks will see an increase in reservations more because of the uncertainty the consumer sees rather than what reality might be,” she said, meaning that campers may gravitate toward private parks out of the assumption that campgrounds on federal lands are closed.
“One of our biggest fears is just the bad publicity. The public hears ‘Campgrounds Closed at National Parks’ and to be honest, the average person doesn’t know the difference between a national park, a state park and a private park. We were concerned about that last year when the California state parks were going to close. That’s just negative press the consumer sees and concludes, ‘We’ll go to Disneyland this year instead.’”
The reality Sipe and CalARVC are stressing as the sequester begins is that there are “plenty of camping options” at the 800 commercial campgrounds in California.
Kevin Fallon, owner of the 99-site Crescent City KOA near Crescent City, Calif., agrees with Sipe’s conclusion. Fallon’s park is within walking distance of Redwood National Park, and he sees the sequester as a double-edged sword.
“Some of that business will come our way,” he says, speculating that as campers are deterred from finding sites to camp in the national park, they’ll turn to private parks like Fallon’s.
His park features some 10 acres of redwoods, so campers who want to see redwoods might as well come to his park anyway, he reckons. He frequently turns away campers during the peak season when the national park and an adjoining state park are bursting with tourists.
“But as time progresses and budgetary restraints remain in place, then it will affect the national park’s ability to attract and serve guests, which WILL affect our county and the area,” Fallon said. “If the public perception is there is no money to maintain a reasonable level of services for people who desire to come to this area and camp, they’ll probably look somewhere else.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) issued a statement on March 6, stating that it was working alongside the U.S. Travel Association and others on several fronts to develop a strategy to help end this man-made crisis. The coalition is:
- Engaging media to voice the travel industry’s concerns.
- Communicating directly with Congressional offices to inform them of the deep impact the sequester will have on travelers and its ripple in the economy.
- Activating a grassroots mobile messaging campaign that easily bridges frustrated travelers with lawmakers.
- Developing economic research to paint a picture of the realities stemming from these reductions.
ARVC further stated that it was aggressively engaging with media outlets aimed at both policymakers and the public. Statements from the Travel Association on the sequester have already received widespread media coverage. The association is also considering select advertisements to highlight the impact of the sequester on travelers and to ask Congress to “Draw the Line” – travelers have waited long enough.
ARVC also stated that it was communicating directly with Congressional offices, particularly those in districts where travel has a particularly strong economic effect, informing them of the deep impact the sequester will have on American travelers and its broader effect across the economy.
ARVC members were also invited to the National Issues Conference for an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Congress.
The Unkindest Cuts of All
Skeptics might have seen the sequester coming.
The White House first proposed the sequestration plan in 2011 to avoid a debt limit debate. A reluctant Congress went along with the administration’sU proposal. President Barack Obama signed it into law and even threatened to veto other proposals aimed at averting these cuts.
Back in 2011, few lawmakers, if any, thought deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, totaling about $85 billion and now starting to kick in, were a smart idea.
The across-the-board cuts, set up as a last-resort trigger and based on a mechanism used in the 1980s, became a reality largely because President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, failed to find a way to stop them.
Republicans, influenced by Tea Party and other conservative factions, insisted on just spending cuts to narrow the deficit. Tax increases were out.
Obama and the Democratic-run Senate didn’t budge from a mix of cuts and increased tax revenues.
Despite the administration’s barnstorming tour days before the March 1 deadline, Congress could not reach a compromise.
Department of Interior officials who oversee the national parks dispensed a laundry list of cutbacks at all 397 national parks, forests and recreation areas.
Across the entire park system, 900 permanent positions that currently are vacant will not be filled, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said March 8 in a memo to the entire agency.
“In an organization with 15,000 permanent employees, 900 vacant jobs have a profound effect. Every activity will be affected. Some impacts will be immediate, others will accumulate over time,” Jarvis said. “Fewer law enforcement rangers and USPP (United States Park Police) officers mean lower levels of protection and longer response times. Fewer maintenance personnel mean that parks may have to close facilities completely when breakdowns occur – and that the $12 billion maintenance backlog will continue to grow.”
Among the specific announced cutbacks were these:
- Blue Ridge Parkway will cut 21 seasonal interpretive ranger programs, resulting in the closure of 50% of its visitor centers and contact stations. Eliminating seven stations will put 80 miles between open facilities along the parkway, reducing the interpretive information available to visitors.
- Gettysburg National Military Park will eliminate 20% of its Student Education Programs this spring, canceling field trips for 2,400 students.
- Glacier National Park will delay the reopening of Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks. Previous closures of the road resulted in lost revenue for surrounding communities and concessions of $1 million per day, a potentially devastating blow to businesses that depend on the park for tourism dollars.
- Mount Rainier National Park will close its Ohanapecosh Visitor Center permanently, eliminating this resource for 60,000-85,000 visitors annually.
- Grand Canyon National Park will delay the seasonal opening of its East and West Rim Drives, and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center – impacting a quarter of a million visitors.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park in California will keep its main road and campgrounds closed for an additional two weeks this spring, and close the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center for two days each week. The Red Bluff Daily News reports that this will affect 1,100 schoolchildren who would normally visit the park during these weeks, and the park will lose about $156,000 in revenue.
- Shenandoah National Park has delayed the opening of campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitor centers, as well as the hiring of seasonal employees, park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog told The Daily Progress newspaper in Virginia. Preventative search and rescue operations have been scrapped, eliminating an effective program that placed people at trailheads and on trails, making sure that hikers had water and a plan to keep themselves safe on challenging trails.
“A $110 million cut will not only be devastating to the parks themselves, but to the many businesses and communities that rely on them to drive sales,” said Perry Wheeler, a spokesperson for the National Parks Conservation Association, in an e-mail. “Our national parks represent just 1/14th of 1% of the federal budget, and they sustain a quarter-million in private sector jobs and generate $31 billion from tourism and recreation alone. Every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates about $10 in economic activity.”
ARC’s Crandall Takes High Road
The prevailing opinion in the outdoor hospitality industry is that efforts to reduce federal spending by cutting back on all government services, including the nation’s public lands, will be bad for private RV parks and campgrounds as well.
“I wish I could tell you there will be no impact,” Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), told WCM. “The impact will be a lot less than a lot of the hype in the media, and less than the impact of rising gasoline prices over the last month.”
However, looking at the situation more as an opportunity and less a crisis, he said the present is a good time for the private sector (RV park and campground owners as well as RV manufacturers) to be proactive with the federal government and help scrutinize their expenditures.
“Owners can sit back and accept those cuts, then complain to members of Congress or they can look for a sustainable solution to become a partner with federal programs we would like to make sustainable, no matter what happens,” Crandall said.
“First of all, whether or not sequestration happens in its current form,” he said days before the March 1 deadline, “we’re looking at a lean period for budgets of National Park Service and other public land providers,” Crandall said. “Sequestration gets all the (current) spotlight, but the overall budget projections for federal agencies that now serve a billion visitors are not good for the next several years. It is an issue that everybody in the recreation field should be looking at.”
The private sector is good at operating on reduced budgets – businesses routinely do so during lean times, Crandall said, but the concept is almost alien to the federal government.
“Most of us had our personal budgets affected by the downturn in the economy starting in 2007,” he said, “but the recovery spending of 2008-2010 allowed the federal agencies to continue without any impact from the recession.”
Crandall opposes across-the-board cuts in agencies like the National Park Service, because such cuts would cut “muscle and bone as well as fat.”
Crandall thinks a smarter approach would be to give the heads of all of the agencies the flexibility to implement these cuts responsibly by eliminating waste and duplication from their departments.
Indeed, Crandall took this opportunity to ask agencies like the NPS, which enacted a $115 million cutback via sequestration, to work with the private sector for the betterment of both.
ARC began asking groups known in the industry as destination marketing organizations (DMOs), such as chambers of commerce and convention and visitors and bureaus, located near federal lands to begin deploying some of their financial resources to public lands.
- In Bend Ore., an area with several national forests, ARC suggests DMOs use some of their advertising dollars to help with mountain bike patrols, apps and websites and sponsor joint programs. Rangers could be paid by the private sector to give interpretative programs at nearby privately owned campgrounds.
Something akin to this already occurs on cruises to Alaska in which NPS rangers come aboard the ships in Glacier Bay and elsewhere to talk about glaciers and whales. The cruise lines pay for this service.
“It’s time for campgrounds to say, if it would enhance the experience of our guests by having a park service ranger coming in to give presentations, now is the time we should pick up some of the costs,” Crandall said.
Crandall said the NPS collects $300 million in fees annually but could expand that by more than enough to offset the 5% cutback that is coming through sequestration just by making entrance fees more reasonable. The biggest parks charge $25 per vehicle, no matter whether it contains two people or eight people and no matter whether they’re staying for an afternoon or a week.
An airport charges for parking based on length of stay; parks should begin doing the same, he said.
“It’s time for us to say if you go into Yosemite and spend a week, you pay more than for a family that spends an afternoon there. The American public is willing to pay more in entrance fees and to campsites if they know the agencies will give them good value,” he said.
The NPS derives 93% of its operating funds from government appropriations; that percentage should come down as users pay more of their fair share, Crandall argued.
In a similar vein, “International visitors probably should pay more or not be able to buy an America the Beautiful pass that is good for a year for $80. International visitors need to pay something (a premium) that reflects that American taxpayers are helping to pay for national parks. It’s time to no longer subsidize those visits to national parks.”
He raised this argument again when he addressed the RVIA’s annual meeting in Florida in early March.
Statue of Liberty Dilemma
The government’s outdated way of doing business in times of disaster, such as following Superstorm Sandy last fall, is another example of how the federal government should amend its spending ways, Crandall said.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which provide the federal government $20 million in concessioner franchisee fees annually, were closed immediately following the storm and remain closed. The closing has led to the layoff of 500 workers who manned the ferry service and work with private concessioners. The ferry service was halted because docks on the island were damaged.
Yet, the day after the storm hit, concessioners met with NPS officials and offered to rebuild the docks. NPS said “thanks” but let’s wait until the Congress acts with disaster relief, Crandall explained.
Eventually, Congress passed legislation to provide the funding to return the island to normal.
“Sometime before 2014, we’ll have the Statue of Liberty reopened to the public,” Crandall said, but it could have been much sooner if the government had followed private enterprise’s lead.
Similarly, Crandall said the Statue of Liberty could be run more like a business if its hours of operation were extended. Until the storm hit, the last boat of the day left at 3:30 p.m.
“If we kept the Statue open until 10 p.m., you could see beautiful sunsets over New York Harbor and increase annual visitation of 4 million to 5 million or 6 million,” Crandall estimated. This increased visitation would raise current venue of $80 million by another $20 million to $30 million, he said.
In the meantime, campground owners like Jimmy Felton in Tennessee are thinking the fallout from the sequestration, no matter how long it lasts, will not be too great.
“There is always the risk that the public will get scared,” meaning that some will opt not to go camping this spring. But, he quickly points out that the private sector campgrounds usually offer so many more amenities than the public lands that the campers who frequent the more primitive sites in national parks aren’t the same ones that patronize the private campgrounds.
The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) has successfully launched a brand new website for the association at www.arvc.org.
“We’re really pleased with the way the site has come together,” Jennifer Schwartz, ARVC’s senior director of marketing communications and partnerships, stated in a news release. She added that ARVC tapped Indianapolis, Ind.-based WebLink International Inc., a leading provider of websites for trade associations, to develop the new site.
“ARVC.org has been redesigned to incorporate the most relevant and compelling content,” Schwartz said. “It provides enhanced functionality and easy to use tools to better serve our members as a more complete, centralized member resource for member benefits, news and upcoming events. It’s everything you need to know about ARVC and ARVC-related opportunities.”
The website features ARVC’s educational, operational and marketing resources, updates on legislative and regulatory affairs, as well as information on ARVC Foundation programs and industry support.
“We anticipate that ARVC.org will quickly become the ‘go to’ resource for our members,” Schwartz said, adding that the website also has an online community forum where ARVC members, supplier partners, and state leaders can exchange ideas and opinions about topics of interest to them.
“The website also includes a searchable database of suppliers that we didn’t have before,” Schwartz said. “Now it’s very easy for our members to find providers of products or services they are searching for. We’ve also made it so that suppliers can update their business listings whenever they want to ensure that they can keep the most accurate and up-to-date information in front of our members.”
ARVC members can also use the website to process payments for membership dues as well as their attendance at conferences and workshops provided by the association.
Based in Denver, Colo., ARVC is the only national trade association exclusively representing the interests of privately owned RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Membership is comprised of RV park and campground owners and operators, industry suppliers, franchisers and others committed to promoting the growth and welfare of the RV park and campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry through development and implementation of legislative, regulatory, educational and promotional programs and activities. ARVC is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) has released preliminary details about the 2013 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE) in Knoxville, Tenn. Nov. 4-8.
ARVC posted the following notice this week on its revamped website:
Outdoor hospitality is all about enjoying the great outdoors, so naturally, we’re very excited to have the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains as our backdrop for the 2013 arvc Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE). It’s your chance to join hundreds of your fellow park owners and operators at the Knoxville Convention Center for the premier event of the RV park and campground industry.
OHCE offers you a choice of over 40 educational seminars, all of which are Outdoor Hospitality Education Program-approved and presented by nationally recognized speakers and leaders in the industry. New this year! We’ve expanded our educational content to give you even more learning opportunities. ALL educational seminars, from Tuesday through Friday, are now included in your full registration fee!
You’ll also have opportunities to participate in cracker barrel discussions, network with your peers and attend enjoyable social events. Plus, the Expo will provide you with the convenience of “one-stop shopping” with more than 100 exhibitors demonstrating the latest products and services that can assist you in your park operations. You won’t want to miss this information-packed event. You’ll return to your campground with a wealth of new ideas, insights and industry contacts.
All sessions will take place at the Knoxville Convention Center unless otherwise noted. The schedule is subject to change.
Monday, Nov. 4
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. SPOT Tour
Noon-5:00 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
Tuesday, Nov. 5
7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. SPOT Tour
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Specialized Course Options
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Specialized Course Lunch
2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Educational Seminars
3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Joint 20 Group Meeting
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Cracker Barrel
Wednesday, Nov. 6
7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Educational Seminars
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Opening Luncheon with Keynote
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Voting Area Caucuses
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Welcome Reception/ Expo and Trade Show
Thursday, Nov. 7
7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Annual Meeting Breakfast
8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Hospitality Desk Open
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Expo and Trade Show
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Expo Lunch
3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Educational Seminars
6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Awards of Excellence Banquet
Friday, Nov. 8
7:00 a.m. – 3:30 a.m. Hospitality Desk Open
7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Foundation Walk for Disaster Relief
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Supplier Council Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Expo Breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Expo and Trade Show
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Foundation Lunch and Auction
2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Educational Seminars
6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Closing Reception
Campground operators narrowly avoided the imposition of a new National Electric Code (NEC) code requirement, thanks to proactive efforts by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and its industry partners.
A proposal to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) National Electric Code (NEC) suggested a new code requirement that would have required campground operators to ground each electrical pedestal with copper grounding rods at a cost of $70 to $100 each, according to a news release.
Wade Elliott, ARVC’s representative on the NEC Panel, said the proposed requirement was made by an NEC panelist who suggested grounding each pedestal like a separate structure, even though pedestals are already properly grounded.
“If we hadn’t been there to intervene, this new regulation could have cost a 100-site park owner $7,000 to $10,000,” Elliott said, adding that the potential cost to private park operators across the country would have exceeded $32 million.
Elliott, working in concert with Doug Mulvaney of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Bruce Hopkins of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), who also sit on the panel, launched a coordinated effort to delay implementation of the proposed code requirement.
Elliott, who owns Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, a leading pedestal supplier to the campgrounds across the country, said he is not aware of any accidents or studies that would justify the proposed copper ground rod requirement.
“While we were not able to kill the proposal, we were able to delay its implementation by NFPA for another three years,” Elliott said.
ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei alerted members of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners of ARVC’s watchdog efforts on their behalf during WACO’s annual meeting this week in Stevens Point, Wis.
Based in Denver, Colo., the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds is the only national trade association exclusively representing the interests of privately-owned RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Membership is comprised of RV park and campground owners and operators, industry suppliers, franchisers and others committed to promoting the growth and welfare of the RV park and campground sector of the outdoor hospitality industry through development and implementation of legislative, regulatory, educational and promotional programs and activities. ARVC is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization. Visit www.arvc.org for more information.
The Carolinas Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CARVC) will hold its spring meeting April 9 at Camp Clearwater in White Lake, N.C.
There will be a CARVC Board of Directors meeting at 10 a.m., which is open for all members to observe. “This is a great opportunity to see how the board functions, and the work that is being done to market our industry and our member parks,” said Dana Gabriel, association president. “It is also a perfect opportunity to become more involved through committee work, or as a future director.”
At 4 p.m., CARVC will hold its first regional meeting of the year. On the agenda is an ARVC Update, so members can stay abreast of what is happening in the outdoor hospitality industry nationwide, followed by a panel discussion on “How to Make the Most of Your ARVC Benefits.”
CARVC will also conduct a presentation on “How to Update Your GoCampingAmerica.com Listing.”
“ARVC has put a great new gateway in place that allows members to update park profile information and add photos,” Gabriel noted.
Dinner that evening will be at Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant and Pizza in Elizabethtown. Dinner is Dutch.
Camp Clearwater has very generously offered free RV camping for those who would like to overnight.
For more information contact Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 568-8892.
Editor’s Note: The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) posted a news release on its website today (March 6) about the federal government’s sequestration. Portions of that post appear below.
With no political solution in sight, ARVC is working alongside the U.S. Travel Association and others on several fronts to develop a strategy to help end this man-made crisis. Our coalition is:
- Engaging media to voice the travel industry’s concerns.
- Communicating directly with Congressional offices to inform them of the deep impact the sequester will have on travelers and its ripple in the economy.
- Activating a grassroots mobile messaging campaign that easily bridges frustrated travelers with lawmakers.
- Developing economic research to paint a picture of the realities stemming from these reductions.
Amplifying Travel’s Impact in the Media
- We are aggressively engaging with media outlets aimed at both policymakers and the public. Statements from the Travel Association on the sequester have already received widespread media coverage. The association is also considering select advertisements to highlight the impact of the sequester on travelers and to ask Congress to “Draw the Line” – travelers have waited long enough.
Informing Congressional Leaders on Both Sides of the Aisle
- We are communicating directly with Congressional offices, particularly those in districts where travel has a particularly strong economic effect, informing them of the deep impact the sequester will have on American travelers and its broader effect across the economy.
- Mobile messaging is a creative way to bridge frustrated travelers with lawmakers. Our Power of Travel Coalition is encouraging grassroots advocates to text “DELAYED” to 877-877 to receive a reply with information on how to contact Congress on the sequester.
Developing Research that Indicates the Sequester’s Economic Impact
- U.S. Travel’s economists are conducting research on the actual economic impact of the sequester, including trips that may be canceled due to the additional travel difficulties that the sequester will bring. We will share the results of that research with our members, Capitol Hill, the press and the public.
There is absolutely no excuse for travelers in one of the world’s most advanced nations to suffer through a travel process that wastes their precious time and resources. With the launch of the sequester cuts, we will call on travelers to rise up and make their voices heard. We continue to point out to Congress that travel is driving post-recession recovery by creating jobs faster than the rest of the economy and that these cuts could derail our recovery.
By no means do we intend to discourage travel. It’s time for Washington to solve problems rather than make travel delays worse. We will actively monitor and proactively seek to influence action on the sequester and other issues in ways that benefit our industry and promote economic growth.
ARVC members are also invited to the National Issues Conference for an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Congress.
The following column was provided by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and appears in the March issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) is continuing to expand its roster of discount programs for private park operators and their employees across the country.
The association launched a new employee benefit program with AT&T in December that provides a 15% discount on qualifying personal wireless accounts.
The discount plan applies to personal wireless accounts and includes simultaneous use of voice and data services on AT&T’s mobile broadband network as well as unlimited usage of AT&T’s Wi-Fi network at no additional charge.
ARVC Announces New Health Insurance Plan
ARVC is also now making affordable medical, dental and vision plans available to its members, which can be purchased as packages or on an à la carte basis.
The ARVC Health Insurance Program is being administered by Warrenville, Ill.-based JBLG Health, the nation’s largest health insurance provider for business and trade associations.
Key coverages and benefits include:
- Premium savings.
- A wide variety of choices for coverage from HSAs to PPOs for members, their employees or family.
- A shrinking deductible: 20% deductible credit each year you do not meet your deductible.
- 10% healthy member discount and preferred rates.
- Optional free Health Savings Account.
- Optional PPO or traditional health plan with extensive networks.
- Plans with a $20, $25, $30 or $40 co-pay for doctor visits.
- Wellness benefits and Prescription Drug Card.
- Worldwide coverage, 24-hours a day.
- Enhanced wellness benefits based on PPACA Guidelines effective September 23, 2010.
- Tele-Express, phone application – no paper applications to complete.
- Dental Insurance available with or without medical.
- Vision Insurance available with or without medical.
- Critical Illness coverage available that pays cash benefit directly to you.
- Disability coverage available with a benefit of up to $15,000 per month.
Some insurance plan features are subject to state availability and may not be available to all ARVC members. To learn more about the options available to lower your health insurance costs and maintain comprehensive coverage, call the ARVC office at (303) 681-0401.
ARVC Taps Past Chairmen’s Insights at Florida Meeting
ARVC recently convened an unprecedented meeting of 12 of its past chairmen and other top officials stretching all the way back to the 1980s.
“We had more than 500 years of experience in the room,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC’s president and CEO, who organized the Jan. 17 meeting in Tampa, Fla., as the first of what he hopes will be an annual meeting of ARVC’s past chairmen.
“It was a great opportunity to hear of their most extreme challenges, the things they accomplished and the great stories of the early history of ARVC,” said Bambei, who timed the meeting to coincide with the Florida RV SuperShow and the 2nd World RV Conference.
But Bambei and the ARVC Board of Directors did more than listen. They also engaged a video crew to tape interviews with former chairmen, several of which will be posted on ARVC’s online channels in the coming months.
“We captured the unique opportunity to create a living history of ARVC and the campground industry itself with these interviews,” Bambei said.
In addition to creating a living history of ARVC, Bambei said the past chairmen provided the association’s current leadership with insights that will help guide them as the organization continues its strategic planning and develops new programs.
Attending the meeting were several longtime park operators who held top positions with the National Campground Owners Association (NCOA), the precursor of today’s ARVC. They included Dan O’ Connell, formerly of O’Connell’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Amboy, Ill., who served as NCOA president from 1986 to 1987 in addition to serving on the original Board of Regents of the School of RV Park and Campground Management; Albert Daniels of Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro, Mass., who served as NCOA president from 1988 to 1989; and Ervin R. Banes of Frankenmuth Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Frankenmuth, Mich., who served as NCOA president from 1990 to 1991.
Former ARVC officials attending the meeting included Herb Strauss of Papoose Pond Family Campground and Cabins in Waterford, Maine, a founding chairman of the School of RV Park and Campground Management and former NCOA and ARVC treasurer who served as ARVC’s first vice chairman in 1992; Jeff Sims, ARVC’s current director of state relations and program advocacy, who served as ARVC chairman from 1997 to 1998 while he owned and operated Compton Ridge Campground in Branson, Mo.; Chuck Hays Jr. of Far Horizons 49er Village in Plymouth, Calif., who served as ARVC chairman in 1999; Richard J. Whalen, who served as ARVC chairman in 2000 while he operated Dunedin Beach Campground in Dunedin, Fla.; Randy Packard of Pine Acres Family Camping Resort in Oakham, Mass., who was ARVC chairman from 2001 to 2003; Kathy Palmeri of Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Estes Park, Colo., who served as ARVC chairman in 2003 and 2004; Mark Anderson of Camp Chautauqua in Stow, N.Y., who served as ARVC chairman in 2008 and 2009; David L. Berg of Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, who served as ARVC chairman in 2010 and 2011; and Rob Schutter, COO of Leisure Systems Inc., ARVC’s current chairman.
Since its inception in 2010, the Tents for Troops (T4T) program that offers free camping to active U.S. military members has grown to an impressive 245 parks in 41 states.
But its founder, Charlie Curry, is just getting started.
“We want to visit every military base in the country. We’d go in with a motorhome, set up for the day and give handouts about the program,” Curry said. “And when we’re done, we’d just start over again.”
Curry’s passion for the program is evident from the time and effort he spends aggressively promoting it and expanding upon it in addition to running his own campground, Toutle River RV Park in Castle Rock, Wash. “I work days here, but I’m usually up until 2 a.m. working on Tents for Troops,” he admitted.
In response to his efforts, Curry has gained support from entities like the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and Fleetwood RV Inc., government representatives and high-ranking military officers, and celebrities such as Robin Williams and Willie Nelson, who brought thousands of visitors and “likes” to T4T’s website and Facebook page through social media endorsements.
Believe it or not, these aren’t the only items on his agenda for 2013. Curry’s current headliner is a free RV loaner program whereby active military could borrow fold-down campers, travel trailers or motorhomes. He’s already selected a prime area in which to launch his detailed pilot program to test its success level and work out the kinks before expanding it to a broader market. “It could potentially use well over 1,000 RVs, if it were successful,” he predicted.
But first, he said he needs a little help. Actually, a lot of help. “We’re desperately looking for donations of RVs,” Curry said. “Even if a manufacturer can just give us a travel trailer for a year or two, at the end we would give them back in great condition.”
He said T4T is also in need of monetary donations to help fund the loaner program as well as his visits to military bases and campgrounds he hopes to enlist. Campground recruitment is a constant effort; Curry said he’s continually calling and visiting parks, and it sometimes takes weeks to get his foot in the door. “I’m very stubborn,” he explained. “I believe I’ve phoned every park in Nevada more than once.” But once they sign up, he said they’re always glad they did. “The parks who participate have lots of pride in it.” And often, military campers in complimentary sites, he said, are accompanied by several friends and family who pay regular site fees.
Curry is continually forming more (and lofty) goals: He wants to create a national newsletter and be able to hire a webmaster and marketing coordinator. He wants RV industry forecaster Richard Curtin from the University of Michigan Business Research Center to measure how many RVers are active military in his research and reports for the RV and campground industries. And he still writes to Robin Williams regularly asking him to join T4T’s board of directors. “I still have great hopes for that,” he said optimistically.
At its core, Curry’s passion for the program is really an extension of his patriotism. “Admiration for the military is now what it should’ve been 40 years ago, but the majority of Americans are, I believe, 100% behind our troops,” he stated. “Our organization is completely non-political, we don’t believe in war, and we’re not trying to press any agenda; but what we do say is, were it not for our troops I don’t believe any one of us would have true freedom. Not only our general freedom but just our everyday living freedom, we owe that to the troops.”
For more information or to see how you can join or support T4T, visit www.TentsforTroops.org, or contact Charlie Curry at email@example.com or (360) 274-7915.