Like many snowbirds, John Palasek is coming back to Florida this winter, but not in the 41-foot motorhome he used to drive.
Instead, he’s driving down in a car and spending the winter in a 400-square-foot park model “cottage,” which he had set up on an RV lot that he recently purchased at Elite Resorts of America at Citrus Valley.
Having a park model in an RV resort that sells its sites is the most affordable way to have a resort lifestyle in Florida, Palasek said, adding that Elite Resorts provides more amenities, activities and entertainment than he could find in a condominium community – and for a fraction of the price.
“I think, financially, it’s a better way to go in Florida,” said Palasek, a 61-year-old Maryland resident.
He added that since he now owns his own campsite along with his own park model, he can come down to Florida whenever he wants and without having to make reservations or worry about short-term camping restrictions, which in some jurisdictions prohibit people from staying in the same campsite for more than 14 days.
Still relatively unknown to most consumers, “park models” are 400-square-foot, factory-built cottages, complete with full size bathrooms and kitchen appliances. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts as well as cherry, oak or maple cabinetry. And since they are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they can be placed on campsites in RV parks and resorts and used as vacation cottages.
And while growing numbers of RV parks and resorts in Florida are selling their campsites, Elite Resorts at Citrus Valley is one of a select few that make their sites available to owners of park models as well as towable and motorized RVs, said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), the trade association that represents park model manufacturers.
This makes Elite Resorts particularly enticing to people like Vic Horvath of Ontario, Canada, who is leaving his fifth-wheel at home while he spends the upcoming winter in a new park model he sited on a campsite he owns at the resort. “We like the park and having a park model there gives us the convenience of not having to pull the trailer,” Horvath said, adding that he plans to keep his fifth-wheel in Canada for use on summer trips.
Originally built 40 years ago as Citrus Valley Campground, developer Ed Mayer of Elite Resorts of America purchased the park two years ago and completely rebuilt it.
“We bulldozed everything,” Mayer said. “We redid the water, sewer and electrical connections and created campsites that are much larger and code conforming.”
Mayer also built new amenities, including a 3,000-square-foot swimming pool, a 1,200-square-foot recreation hall, a 6,000-square-foot lodge as well as a putting green, a horseshoe pit, an enclosed dog run and a playground for children. The resort, which sells its RV lots for $50,000 to $70,000, has an activities director and offers numerous organized activities, including arts and crafts classes and water aerobics, as well as live entertainment.
Palasek said he thrives on the opportunities for social interaction that Elite Resorts of Citrus Valley provides. “They make it easy for you to meet new people,” he said. “There’s always something going on.”
Palasek also likes the resort’s proximity to Disneyworld, which is less than 20 minutes away. “I love Disney, and since it’s close by that works out well for us and our grandchildren,” he said, adding that his sister likes the park model concept so much she purchased a unit, too.
Horvath, for his part, said he enjoys the security of owning his own RV lot. “The problem with the industry is the number of campsites is shrinking and reservations have to be made so far in advance that it makes things kind of difficult. But this way,” he said, “we don’t have to worry about where to spend the winter.”