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Revisiting Park Trailers and Destination Camping

July 27, 2012 by · Comments Off on Revisiting Park Trailers and Destination Camping 

Campground owners and operators for a long time have had a good handle on “destination camping,” a concept that evolved from the development of the recreational park trailer (RPT) in the 1980s and blossomed through the expansion of traditional travel trailers into much larger units.

Whether they are called “seasonals,” “annuals” or “snowbirds,” the buyers or renters of these units have become a significant factor for both campgrounds and the RV manufacturers.

To be sure, there has always existed a certain disconnect between the campground industry and the RV builders about destination camping, but that may begin to disappear. Destination camping is finally getting the attention it deserves from its chief beneficiary, RV manufacturers.

This attention became apparent at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Committee Week June 11-13 in Washington, D.C., where the trade group’s ad hoc Destination Camping Committee embarked on a strategic plan to identify the scope of this rapidly growing segment of the market.

Mike Atkinson, KOA

Mike Atkinson, director of lodging for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the lone campground representative on the committee, said this recognition by manufacturers is refreshing. “Having this melding of ideas is a great thing,” he said.

In the long-term, he sees campgrounds who purchase recreational park trailers or park models as rental units for their destination campers will benefit from the marketing dollars and governmental lobbying that RVIA will put into this segment of the industry.

Learning Curve for OEMs

In the meantime, RVIA is playing catch up.

While there is a variety of products that might qualify as destination camping types of accommodations, RVIA doesn’t really know how big this market is or how big it might yet get.

The concept of destination camping, which refers in part to “snowbirds,” RVers who keep their RV on one site all year or campers who rent an RV for a season at a single site, dates back at least to the 1980s and gained traction in the ’90s, according to John Soard, general manager for Fairmont Park Trailers, a division of Fairmont Homes in Nappanee, Ind. “The traditional concept of an RV being used on the road all the time is being circumvented by the customer parking their unit all the time,” he said.

“It’s taken the industry this long to recognize that’s a nice little market segment,” said Soard, who chairs the RVIA’s Recreational Park Trailer Committee and attended the Destination Camping Committee meeting, both of which were held during Committee Week.

Determining the breadth of that market is the focus of a survey the ad hoc committee commissioned through Precision Research, an Arizona-based firm that has done previous work for RVIA. Hard data is needed because everyone has an idea how big that market is but no one knows for certain, Soard says.

Many in the industry consider recreational park trailers as the major choice for destination campers. Soard thinks otherwise.

For his part, Soard contends, “I am on the higher end of what I think the total number of destination campers is. Of all travel trailers out there being built over 30 feet, I think 75 oversight of those are not being towed. I think they’re being delivered and parked in a seasonal site.” That distinction makes them “destination campers.”

The survey will reach out to 400 RVers and 400 non-RVers. Results are due back by the fall. They’ll also be looking to see how words like “seasonal” and “annual” and “snowbirds” fit with this new destination category.

When that RV, whether it’s a travel trailer, a fifth-wheel or a recreational park trailer, takes on a sense of permanence at a campground or elsewhere, it becomes a vacation home. “Part of the challenge is to figure out how to keep from becoming painted with the same brush stroke as housing, because they’re not,” he said.

Richard Coon, RVIA president

Meeting Well Attended

The RVIA isn’t just paying lip service to the destination camping concept. The ad hoc meeting was well attended by RVIA staff, both public relations and legal, as well as representatives of the Pennsylvania RV Camping Association (PRVCA), the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), KOA and park model builders such as Kropf Industries Inc., DNA Canterbury RV and Cavco Industries Inc., among others.

Says RVIA President Richard Coon, “So the bottom line is we’re trying to determine the market size, the demographics of people who have created this destination camping – what they like, what they don’t like – and determine the best way to promote it.”

That’s a major deviation for the RVIA, according to Coon.

“And if you look at our Go RVing promotions, it is traditional RV. It’s geared where a person buys an RV, grabs his family and goes from place to place. It’s not really geared toward destination camping. So, we’re trying to get a handle on how fast is this part of the market growing. Their (the committee’s) challenge is to go to the market shortly with a research project to try to get a handle on destination camping. And once we get a handle on it, we’ll have to figure out how, if it is growing and if it makes sense to promote it, to promote it – whether it should be PR or national advertising or what.”

KOA’s Atkinson anticipates that as RVIA digs deeper into the concept of destination camping and the role that park trailers play, that segment of the RV industry will benefit from RVIA lobbying efforts.

For example, many state and local governments do not recognize the recreational park trailer as an RV and thus make it difficult or even impossible for campground owners to incorporate them into their parks. Major legal challenges to park trailer placement have been mounted this year, most notably in Maine and Wyoming.

Atkinson said he thinks RVIA will take “a more proactive approach to make sure park models are an accepted unit” for campgrounds. This new recognition on behalf of the RVIA will help close the “disconnect” that has long existed between the RV manufacturers and the campground industry, Atkinson contended.

Matt Wald

Park Trailer Meeting

The meeting went well and in many ways exemplified the (re)melding of park trailer and RV constituencies. In fact, this atmosphere carried over into the Park Trailer Committee meeting, chaired by Fairmont’s Soard, where members, heretofore affiliated with the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), expressed their strong enthusiasm in reunifying with the RVIA.

At last count, 18 park trailer manufacturers, representing approximately 95% of the nation’s park trailer production, had joined RVIA, according to Matt Wald, the RVIA’s park trailer executive director.

Tying into RVIA’s proven track record of national advertising was a strong come-on to affiliate with RVIA, Wald said, but the park trailer makers have a host of other concerns as well. Starting July 2, park trailer manufacturers affiliated with RVIA will have their plant inspections conducted by RVIA inspectors, not third-party inspectors as they had through the RPTIA. The manufacturers anticipate better representation on issues relating to the ANSI code, Wald said, and expect their handbook to be kept up to date so they have the proper guidance on codes.

RVIA inspectors spent three days in Reston, Va., in June reviewing the ANSI standards. “They are 100% prepared,” Wald stated.

In addition, inspectors conducted a mock inspection at a park trailer plant in Elkhart, Ind., at the end of June to review their guidelines before assuming their new duties on July 2, he noted.

The committee recommended – and the RVIA board subsequently approved – that RVIA formally adopt the 2009 edition of the ANSI A119.5 and also the 2011 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) instead of the 2008 NEC that is currently referenced within ANSI A119.5.

The RVIA board also named two park trailer representatives, Curt Yoder of Kropf Industries Inc. and Dick Grymonprez of Athens Park Homes, to the two newly added Recreational Park Trailer seats on the board.

Sticker Shock?

The added benefits do not come without a higher price, and some park trailer makers may undergo temporary “sticker shock,” Wald conceded.

The lowest level of RPTIA membership – those firms with less than $1 million in annual sales – was $1,500. It’s now $2,040 with the RVIA.

Most of the builders fall within the $3 million to $10 million sales level. For them, their dues jumped from $2,000 to $6,000.

Perhaps most significantly, the Park Trailer Committee recognized the marketing potential of RVIA membership. The committee recommended that the RVIA recreational park trailer seal price be set at $150 to include a $75 association fee as well as a $75 market expansion assessment that will be collected and held for future promotional efforts. The RVIA board approved the request.

The voting members of the committee are: Soard; Grymonprez; Yoder; Atkinson; Denise Walsh, Breckenridge; Tyler Steele, DNA Canterbury; Joe Follman, Chariot Eagle; Tim Gage, Cavco Industries Inc.; and Larry Weaver, Dutch Park Homes.

Any other RVIA member is eligible to participate in the RPT Committee as an informational member.

“This was a great introduction to the support team at RVIA,” Soard concluded at the end of Committee Week. “Working with Matt has been a true blessing. He’s the right guy for what we need. He understands the challenges we have as park model manufacturers. RVIA really worked hard and put this together well. They pulled it off in a spectacular way, a herculean effort. That said, we’re just getting started. There will be a slight learning curve.”

The Destination Camping Committee is scheduled to hold its next meeting in October at a campground in the Nashville, Tenn., area to review the survey results. The Park Trailer Committee will meet at the same time. Atkinson is in charge of booking the campground for the meetings.

 

Gorin: Kudos to Bill Garpow for Industry Service

July 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

On July 1, 2012, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) ceased to exist, having officially closed its door and cuddled back in to the offices of the RV Industry Association (RVIA) from which it was evicted some number of years ago – an eviction about as unceremonious as was its welcome back into the “official” RV family.

For the park industry, the park trailer never ceased to be an RV. For RVIA, that was not the case.

Years ago (maybe 20 or so), RVIA was concerned that a relationship with RPTIA was going to taint the purity of the RV and somehow effect RVIA’s ability to protect and defend the RV as a camping unit. At about the same time, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the rest of the industry was working hard to establish the cabin – bare bones but a cabin nonetheless – as a legitimate camping unit and to maintain the park trailer or park model as a legitimate RV camping unit.

I remember numerous hours spent encouraging legislators on the state and local level to define camping as something other than where you slept at night. It was a total outdoor environment and there were any number of accommodations options including tents, RVs of all kinds including park trailers, and cabins that were suitable for enjoying campgrounds. Industry friends at RVIA didn’t quite see it that way, either fearful of losing special privileges for RV ownership or of losing RV sites to other alternative camping options.

And then in a series of meetings in Elkhart, Ind., and I recall one in Toronto, emerged RPTIA with its new Executive Director Bill Garpow, a former executive director at the Florida RV Trade Association and a vice president at the RV Industry Association. From the campground industry perspective, the emergence of RPTIA and Bill Garpow started a new era in the park industry.

As Bill heads off into retirement and RPTIA folds its tent and merges into RVIA, its fully appropriate for the park industry to stand up and loudly applaud Bill’s terrific work in leading RPTIA and to thank Bill and his colleagues at RPTIA for their outstanding leadership and dedication to making the park trailer, park model, cottage, cabin or whatever you choose to call it a main line camping unit, popular with park owners, dealers and most importantly the thousands of guests who are introduced to RV parks and campgrounds through a park trailer rental as a great way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. And of course, the popularity of these units among families, retirees and empty nesters has created a new market segment in the park industry. One only has to look at the increase in “destination” or seasonal camping to fully appreciate the role the park trailer plays in the 21st century park industry.

Bill, you deserve a great big thank you from the park industry. So here it is, at least from yours truly – thanks very, very much for all you’ve done and the very important contributions you’ve made working tirelessly on behalf of your manufacturer members, park owners across the country, state campground associations and executive directors who you supported without hesitation whenever your expertise was needed, and the guests who today have the park model as an affordable way to enjoy their outdoor recreation experiences.

Thanks, Bill, and best wishes for a wonderful future and a happy and healthy retirement. Stop by when you’re in the area. And anytime you and your wife would like to spend some time at a Best Parks in America resort, give me a call so we can recognize your contributions to the park industry.

(If I were a manufacturer, I’d name a unit after you – the Garpow, a park model with a long life expectancy, a passion for camping and exceptional design for guests to enjoy while on vacation or in retirement.)

One last comment on this change from RPTIA to RVIA. Welcome to Matt Wald, the new executive director for park trailers at RVIA. Matt’s been with RVIA for a number of years, and the industry can relax that the future of the unit is in good hands. We wish Matt great success in leading this important industry segment and filling the big shoes left by Bill.

State Parks Going Private?

After a number of years of budget anguish across the country as tax revenues fell during the recession, as many citizens began calling for tax reductions and cuts in government spending and as jurisdiction after jurisdiction has tried to set fees for park use to bolster revenues to maintain the parks, what appears to be the first state to actually try privatizing not only campgrounds and stores, but the entire operation of a park appears to be America’s pacesetting state – California. No surprise here. With a huge budget and ballooning deficits, a forceful and experienced governor and a population that is simply not happy to see its cherished parks closed, California is accepting responses to an RFP offering long term operating contracts in return for capital investment to upgrade and maintain the parks. And from what I hear and read, we’re talking fairly complete independence from public meddling for the winning company. The key will be customer satisfaction that will determine the company’s ability to keep and continue to operate the parks.

At the same time that California is looking at this progressive move toward improving the parks and providing new and expanded recreation opportunities, the U.S. Forest Service, spurred on by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), is now considering a number of pilot projects that will involve concession companies and would potentially enable campers and RVers to enjoy seasonal camping in campgrounds in the U.S. forests, leave their RVs in storage at their favorite forest, and would enable the concession operators to add new amenities and recreational activities traditionally found only in commercial campgrounds.

Budgets, taxes, job and economic realities and a sympathetic administration in Washington are all now coming together in what may be a turning point for the park industry and what could spur great growth in the number of parks and campgrounds and potentially create a new competitive reality.

RV park and campground industry beware: although there could be a new sheriff in town, soon the doors of privatization and free market competition appear to be swinging in a different direction. If that happens, there will be a significant change in the competitive balance between public and private sector parks and campgrounds.

Disability Advocates Protest AH & LA’s D.C. Offices

A small but significant note. On June 19, about 200 people protested outside the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Washington, D.C., offices. They were angered at the association’s efforts to delay installing permanent pool lifts at hotels across the nation. AH & LA countered they are trying to avoid legal liability. Not an argument that’s likely to calm down the disability community that’s heard that argument frequently over the years. No one likes to be accused of creating liability for some one else – especially an individual whose disability might be a result of an illness over which they have no control, aging over which they have no control or due to military service.

Once again, my plea to the park industry: to the extent that being fully compliant with the ADA does not present an undue hardship or cause unreasonable financial hardship on the business, each and every RV park and campground should be as close to 100 percent accessible as soon as possible. There’s a large market of new guests out there waiting to find a welcome mat out so they and their families can enjoy the opportunities of outdoor recreation and experiences.

Good Sam Now a Membership Network?

Seems to me that the Good Sam Club is now in the membership park business. The new incentive program being offered to park owners who sell Good Sam memberships is moving that group very close – not exactly, but close – to the business model of making the parks membership parks a la Coast to Coast. Here’s how it works: buy your GS membership here, pay me and I keep your first year’s dues, and then go use your membership at other Good Sam Parks. At the end of the year, renew your membership directly with GS and I (the original seller) don’t receive any residual income from enrolling you in the first place.

Your campground is now in the business of selling (renting) RV sites, cabins and memberships. Why stop at just Good Sam memberships? How about selling AAA memberships? Maybe a Coast to Coast membership? How about a new business model marketing various memberships of value to RVers and campers on your park website? Maybe in a small office on the campground? Maybe at fairs and festivals. Or in your booth at an RV show?

My only caution on this model is to never forget why you are in business and who your customers are. It’s easy to get distracted and easy for front desk personnel to forget the primary purpose of their contact with the guest.

In my years in the business, I don’t think I can recall a really successful business model where park personnel were selling or marketing products or services for a third party.

There’s good revenue to be made is selling memberships. Just be sure where that fits into your parks’ business plan.

Correction & Apology

Last month I wrote a brief comment on a consultant who was wearing a shirt with the Signature Resorts logo and criticized the individual for suggesting that investing $20 million in a Class A only RV resort in Florida was a sound business model. I based some of my comment on my assumption that the individual was associated with Signature Resort in Naples, Fla.

I’ve since learned that the logo and name Signature Resorts is the company name of the individual wearing the shirt and he’s not related to the Naples resort.

While I still believe the Cape Coral Class A only park being promoted is a serious mistake, to be clear it is not at all associated with the Signature Resorts in Naples and Michigan nor is the consultant in question.

One Last Comment on One Unusual Story

An Orlando-based property management company with a focus on managing self-storage facilities recently added an RV resort management contract to its portfolio in Central Florida. The company will be managing the Floridian RV Resort in St. Cloud, Fla. Floridian RV Resort is a 650-space RV and 130-space mobile home park community that was established in the 1970s, and has been attracting a customer mix of winter snowbirds and semi-permanent residents ever since.

The principal and head of business development for the management company is quoted: “We have been successfully managing self-storage properties for over 15 years. Expanding our property management services to RV Parks was a natural progression. Both commercial property types require focused property management with attention to minimizing expenses and providing excellent customer service at an affordable price point. Our strengths come in to play in setting high occupancy goals and in providing extensive training to our managers to enable them to attract and retain customers on an ongoing basis. The transparency of our methods is what is most appreciated by our clients the property owners.”

Does that strike anyone other than me as strange? Managing a self-storage facility is the same as managing an RV park? Customer service at a self-storage facility is the same as customer service at a hospitality business?

A word to ARVC: consider offering the Outdoor Hospitality Education Program to the self-storage business. This could be a whole new market – imagine the National School of RV Park, Campground & Self-Storage Management.

 

 

 

Not All Park Model Co.’s Settled on Trade Ties

July 18, 2012 by · Comments Off on Not All Park Model Co.’s Settled on Trade Ties 

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has received a strong response from park model builders who it invited to join its ranks recently as part of an association consolidation agreement between RVIA, the nation’s largest RV-related trade group, and the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which has been “mothballed” as part of a two-year trial period stipulated in an agreement between the two trade groups.

Sixteen longstanding RPTIA members representing more than 90 percent of annual park model shipments are now members of RVIA.

And Matt Wald, an 8-year RVIA staffer tabbed recently as RVIA’s new park trailer executive director, told RVIA’s board at its June meeting during RVIA Committee Week in Washington D.C. that the association has been making substantial headway in integrating shipment tracking, public relations, standards, government affairs, show-exhibiting formats and other functions for the co-mingled trade groups.

“The park trailer industry is excited to be back in the RVIA fold,” declared John Soard, chairman of the newly formed RVIA Recreational Park Trailer Committee and general manager for Fairmont Park Trailers, a division of Fairmont Homes in Nappanee, Ind., in a June  press release.

Yet, that still leaves about 20 park trailer builders who have declined to join RVIA essentially unaffiliated with any active trade group — at least for the time being since RPTIA’s board voted earlier this year to shelve the association and encourage its members to join RVIA. In return, RVIA agreed to provide former RPTIA members with programs and some additional services as well.

Technically speaking, RPTIA, which formally closed its Newnan, Ga., office on June 29 and parted company with longtime exec William “Bill” Garpow, still exists on paper as a legal entity and its officers and directors have retained their titles while the association’s assets remain under the authority of the board and its website is still “live,” according to Curt Yoder, vice president and co-owner of Goshen, Ind.-based Kropf Industries Inc.

However, RPTIA retains the right to reactivate after the two-year trail period, should that become necessary, says Yoder, who was appointed to RVIA’s board at its June session along with current RPTIA President Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes LLC, Athens, Texas.

“We have the option to reopen RPTIA,” explained Yoder. “At this juncture our hope is that things will go well with RVIA. There have been no red flags thrown that say that won’t happen. I think everyone who has joined is happy with it.

“Our hope is that once everyone sees the benefits of joining RVIA, everyone (else) will come on board. As time goes on, they’ll see the move was made for the better,” he said, noting that those who remain with RPTIA do so in name only because “they have no association to support them.”

Yoder said a third-party inspection process for those who join RVIA is now provided through RVIA, and that RPTIA members who opt not to join RVIA may have to find their own inspectors, as that service is no longer available through RPTIA. Nor is RPTIA still issuing seals.

Meanwhile, Wald reported that he was working in mid-July with three additional park trailer manufacturers considering RVIA affiliation. “Some have called this an experiment or trial marriage to see how well this works,” he said, recalling events some years ago when the RPTIA was first formed after builders split from the RVIA.

 

RVIA Opens Membership to Park Trailer Manufacturers

April 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Matt Wald (left) reaches out a hand of friendship to RPTIA's Bill Garpow outside the latter's office in Newnan, Ga.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has opened membership in the association to recreational park trailer manufacturers.

RVIA President Richard Coon sent a personal invitation, an RVIA Park Trailer membership application as well as association information to recreational park trailer manufacturers last week, according to Matt Wald, RVIA’s new park trailer executive director. A similar invitation package will go out to park model suppliers next week, according to a news release.

“We are wasting no time folding park trailers into the RVIA family,” said Wald. “Richard and I have been reaching out to the park trailer industry leaders and making sure that they are comfortable through this period of transition. Meanwhile we have been laying the groundwork inside RVIA to accommodate park trailer members in key areas such as shows and public relations, and I will be spending time with RPTIA Executive Director Bill Garpow this week to try to figure out how to best fill his big shoes for the park trailer industry.”

RVIA and the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) reached an agreement in March for park trailer manufacturers to join RVIA as members. As conditions of park trailer manufacturers joining RVIA:

  • Park trailer members will have two representatives on the board of directors.
  • RVIA will form a Park Trailer Committee as one of the association’s standing committees.
  • RVIA will continue the Destination Camping Committee and its efforts to study and recommend initiatives to grow this market segment.
  • ANSI A119.5 will be recognized and accepted as a park trailer standard and will be maintained by RVIA’s Standards Steering Committee. RVIA inspectors will inspect park trailer plants at least twice per year.
  • RVIA will continue efforts to have HUD accept the A119.5 as an exception to the Construction Code.
  • RVIA’s Government Affairs Department will represent the legislative interests of recreational park trailer manufacturers at both the state and federal levels.
  • Park trailers members will be treated the same in terms of participation of the National RV Trade Show, with the understanding that there are size restrictions.

As part of this agreement, RVIA named Wald to the newly created position of park trailer executive director for the association. In this role, he is responsible for promoting and protecting the interests of park trailer manufacturer members. By leveraging the activities of the existing RVIA committee and departmental structure, he will serve the park trailer industry by monitoring and acting on federal, state and local legislative issues; preparing, analyzing and distributing market data and demographics; helping to manage the ongoing development of and updates to the ANSI A119.5 national safety standard for park trailers through the RVIA standards process; serving as the liaison between RVIA and the media to promote the recreational park trailer industry as well as acting as an industry spokesperson with government agencies, industry trade groups and at industry trade shows.

He will serve as staff liaison and manage the affairs of the Recreational Park Trailer Standing Committee.

For information on RVIA park trailer membership, contact Matt Wald at (703) 620-6003 ext. 313 or mwald@rvia.org.

 

Settlement Near in Maine Resort’s Park Model Dispute?

March 14, 2012 by · Comments Off on Settlement Near in Maine Resort’s Park Model Dispute? 

The owner of Flagg’s RV & Cottage Resort LLC in York Beach, Maine, wants to settle a lawsuit brought against the town for ordering six new, cottage-like park models removed from its grounds, according to Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal.

“I would hope that this could be settled in the next month or so,” McDougal said March 9.

McDougal said he could release no further details, but if a settlement is reached it will go to the Board of Selectmen for approval, seacoast online.com reported.

Flagg’s owner, Robert Moser, said Monday (March 12) he knew his attorney, David Ordway of Saco, was working with the town on a settlement agreement. He referred further comment to Ordway, who could not be reached.

Flagg’s took its case to York County Superior Court after the York Board of Appeals in September, and again in October, upheld McDougal’s June 28 Notice of Violation & Order for Corrective Action ordering the park models removed from the park. McDougal said the park models violated town ordinance density standards as the new units more closely resembled manufactured housing than recreational vehicles, as claimed by Flagg’s.

The June 28 town order said violations of the town’s zoning ordinance are subject to fines or $100 to $2,500 per day for each violation. It is unknown whether the potential settlement agreement is related to the fines that could be levied by McDougal should Flagg’s lose its case in superior court, the removal of the units, or both.

York was the first town known to have challenged the national RV industry trend of moving park models into camper parks. The park models are recognized in the industry and by state and federal standards as recreational vehicles, according to Moser.

Moser is president of Morgan RV Resorts LLC, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a company that owns numerous RV parks from Maine to Florida. They’ve had no other problems with park models in other towns, he has said.

Park models have become the trend in RV campgrounds nationwide, according to Bill Garpow, executive director of Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).

“Recreational vehicle parks have determined they can increase their cash flow and bottom line as a RV park if they do more rental use than just allowing people to bring in their own units,” Garpow said in July.

Last spring, Flagg’s management told 10 RV owners in the Garrison Avenue park to remove their recreational vehicles to make way for the new six park models. One seasonal Flagg’s resident said he paid an estimated $5,000 a year to park his RV there, while the park models rent for an estimated $1,400 a week.

McDougal inspected the units and ruled they did not fit the definition of an RV by town ordinances because they, unlike street-legal RVs, need to be escorted as “wide loads” when in transit; do not have wheels underneath when parked; and have air conditioning condensers and propane gas tanks freestanding on concrete pads versus being attached as normally found on RVs.

Agreement Allows RPTIA Members to Join RVIA

March 7, 2012 by · Comments Off on Agreement Allows RPTIA Members to Join RVIA 

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) have announced an agreement under which park trailer manufacturers will be able to join RVIA as members.

“This is something our members of RPTIA have been talking about for a long time. We feel this is the best time to move forward, and we are excited to be working with RVIA to better the park trailer and destination camping industry,” Dick Grymonprez, chairman of RPTIA and vice president of sales and marketing for Athens Park Homes, stated in a news release.

“We are very happy to welcome park trailer manufacturers as RVIA members,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “We look forward to representing them and firmly believe that we can leverage our association services and programs to help these companies achieve their goals.”

As conditions of park trailer manufacturers joining RVIA:

  • Park trailer members will have two representatives on the board.
  • RVIA will form a Park Trailer Committee as one of the association’s standing committees.
  • RVIA will continue the Destination Camping Committee and its efforts to study and recommend initiatives to grow this market segment.
  • RVIA will hire a full-time senior level staff person who will report to Coon. This person will be responsible for providing guidance, managing information, serving as a spokesperson and representing park trailer manufacturers’ best interests.
  • ANSI A119.5 will be recognized and accepted as a park trailer standard and will be maintained by RVIA’s Standards Steering Committee. RVIA inspectors will inspect park trailer plants at least twice per year.
  • RVIA will continue efforts to have HUD accept the A119.5 as an exception to the Construction Code.
  • RVIA’s Government Affairs Department will represent the legislative interests of recreational park trailer manufacturers at both the state and federal levels.
  • Park trailers members will be treated the same in terms of participation of the National RV Trade Show, with the understanding that there are size restrictions.

The agreement reached calls for a two-year trial period. RPTIA will “safe harbor” or “mothball” its association for these two years, pending an agreement of both parties to continue having RVIA represent park trailer manufacturers.

RVIA’s board approved the agreement to have park trailer manufacturers join the association at their March 5 meeting in Palm Springs, Calif. In January, the RPTIA board and membership had a vote to suspend operations contingent upon favorable negotiations and the joint acceptance of a workable plan between RVIA and RPTIA that would result in park trailer manufacturers being allowed to join RVIA as voting members.

An effective date of when park trailer manufacturers can join RVIA will be determined in the coming weeks.

 

 

Retirees Extol Park Model Lifestyle

February 29, 2012 by · Comments Off on Retirees Extol Park Model Lifestyle 

Editor’s Note: The following news release and the accompanying  video come from the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association  (RPTIA) and promotes park model living. Click here to watch the video.

Al and Bonnie Parsons have a retirement lifestyle most of us could only dream of.

Every summer, they live in their 35-foot Winnebago motorhome and work as volunteer interpretive rangers in the national parks.

“Last year, we were in Yellowstone, and we were in Yosemite the year before that,” said Bonnie Parsons, 67, a retired physicians assistant. “This summer, we’ll be volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park.”

And when they’re not volunteering in the national parks, the Parsons travel around the country visiting family and friends. They spend the winter at Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, where they own a “park model.”

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 because park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles because they sit on a chassis, they can be set up on leased sites in campgrounds and RV resorts in some of the most sought-after destinations in the country, where the cost of real estate is beyond most people’s reach.

Park models are what have enabled Voyager RV Resort and other Sunbelt RV resorts to offer a winter home away from home for a fraction of the cost of a site built home or condo.

Park models average about $40,000 and can be set up on leased or purchased campsites in RV parks and resorts across the country, said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). About a third of the nation’s privately owned parks make spaces available for park model owners, usually for annual lease fees ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 a year, depending on location.

At Voyager RV Resort, used park models often sell for under $20,000, while new units can range from $40,000 to $70,000 or more, depending on the style and amenities.

The Parsons bought a used 1999 Cavco park model last year for $55,000 – a higher amount that reflected the fact that the unit was fully furnished and also included an “Arizona room,” which the Parsons use for entertaining. They also pay Voyager about $4,500 a year to lease their site. The lease fee includes water and sewer service and all park amenities, but electricity is not included.

Even so, that’s well within the Parsons’ budget.

How They Did it

So how did they do it?

First, they sold their house and Al’s financial advisory business in Pennsylvania and used the proceeds to buy their motorhome. They put the rest of their money in the bank and into their investment portfolio.

Downsizing was difficult at first, they said. They had a garage sale and gave several pieces of furniture to their children, but donated most of their possessions to charity. But they still wound up renting a 10- by 10-foot storage unit to store antique furniture, photographs, artwork and a few other possessions that were too sentimental to sell but too cumbersome to take with them on the road.

But if you’re contemplating doing what the Parsons have done, they offer a few words of advice:

  • Make sure both you and your spouse are equally committed to having a successful full-timing lifestyle: “The secret about fulltiming,” Bonnie Parsons said, “is that both people have to be equally enthused.” Conversely, if only one person likes the lifestyle and the other doesn’t, it won’t be enjoyable in the long run.
  • Read up on full-timing before you do it: Many books are available that describe full-time RVing experiences. Bonnie said she read four of them before deciding full-timing was for her.
  • Rent RVs and park models before you buy them: Both motorhomes and park models can be rented. Try them out before deciding which product is best for you.
  • Consider buying a park model if you like to entertain: Bonnie Parsons says the space and durability of park models is essential for snowbirds who like to entertain.

Al Parsons, who is 77, also offered a word of advice to young people.

“Start saving now,” he said, “and aim to retire as young as you can.” People who start saving for retirement in their 20s and 30s can often retire by their mid-50s if they set enough money aside and make good investments. Parsons himself worked as an electrical engineer before starting a venture capital firm, which he sold before becoming a full-time RVer.

For more information on a retirement lifestyle that includes park models, please contact William Garpow at the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association at (770) 251-2672 and visit www.rptia.com.

RPTIA Solicits Votes on RVIA Merger Issue

January 27, 2012 by · Comments Off on RPTIA Solicits Votes on RVIA Merger Issue 

The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) is surveying its 45 members on their opinion about reuniting with the Recreation Vehicle Industry  Association (RVIA).

Votes will be tallied the end of the month and the RPTIA board will go from there, RPTIA Executive Director William Garpow told Woodall’s Campground  Management.

An affirmative vote would put the RPTIA into a state of suspension dependent upon subsequent actions by the RPTIA and RVIA boards, Garpow said.

The possible merger issue has put on hold RPTIA’s search for a new executive to succeed Garpow, who earlier announced plans to retire.

Garpow said he has no idea how the RPTIA membership will vote on this latest overture to reunite with RVIA. “RPTIA has gone through this process several times and it has been a close vote,” Garpow said. “Right now I can’t tell you which way it’s going to go.”

The park model manufacturers broke away from RVIA in 1994 and formed their own organization whose offices are in Newnan, Ga.

Maine County Awaits Morgan Appeal on Park Model Ruling

November 2, 2011 by · Comments Off on Maine County Awaits Morgan Appeal on Park Model Ruling 

As of Monday (Oct. 31), the York, Maine, Board of Appeals had received no notification from York County Superior Court over whether Flagg’s RV & Cottage Resort LLC planned to appeal its precedent-setting case claiming park models are recreational vehicles, seacoast online.com reported.

York appears to the first town to challenge the national RV industry trend of moving the cottage-looking units called park models into RV parks. The park models are recognized in the industry and by state and federal standards as recreational vehicles, according to Robert Moser, owner of Flagg’s.

RVs are allowed at Flagg’s in York Beach, but Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal has ruled the park models are not recreational vehicles but dwellings, which are not allowed in the park under the town ordinances.

The appeals board in September and again on Oct. 26 upheld McDougal’s ruling.

Flagg’s is expected to appeal the case to Superior Court.

Appeals Board Assistant Reenie Johnson said Monday the town had received no notification from the court of an appeal. The court officially notifies the town when an appeal is filed, she said.

Neither Moser nor his Attorney David Ordway, of Saco, returned phone calls for comment.

Other towns are watching the case, according to McDougal, who said he has fielded numerous phone calls from officials in other towns who want to know how York is handling the issue.

Park models have become the trend in RV campgrounds nationwide, according to Bill Garpow, executive director of Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).

“Recreational vehicle parks have determined they can increase their cash flow and bottom line as a RV park if they do more rental use than just allowing people to bring in their own units,” Garpow said in July.

Moser is president of Morgan RV Resorts LLC, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a company that owns numerous RV parks from Maine to Florida. They’ve had no other problems with park models in other towns, according to Moser.

This spring, Flagg’s management told 10 RV owners in the park to remove their recreational vehicles to make way for six new park models. One seasonal Flagg’s resident said he paid an estimated $5,000 a year to park his RV there, while the park models rent for an estimated $1,400 a week.

McDougal inspected the units and ruled they did not fit the definition of an RV by town ordinances because they, unlike street-legal RVs, need to be escorted as “wide loads” when in transit; do not have wheels underneath when parked; and have air conditioning condensers and propane gas tanks freestanding on concrete pads versus being attached as normally found on RVs, he ruled.

Flagg’s appealed McDougal’s ruling and lost its case with the appeals board in September. It then asked the appeals board for a reconsideration of both the ruling and the basis for its ruling, called the findings of fact. For instance, Moser took issue with testimony given in September about the wheels being removed from the units.

The appeals board denied both requests, upholding McDougal’s June 28 Notice of Violation & Order for Correction Action to remove the six new dwelling units.

County Cold to Upscale Park Model Development

October 7, 2011 by · Comments Off on County Cold to Upscale Park Model Development 

One of the typical park models under fire at the Lake Adventure RV Park in eastern Pennsylvania.

The on-going battle involving the Lake Adventure Recreation Vehicle Park in Pennsylvania’s Pike County continued Sept. 29 before the Dingman Township Zoning Hearing Board.

The board was hearing an appeal of a permit denial for a local permit which would have allowed trailers with larger bodies, requiring state travel permits, to be placed in the campground, The Pike County Courier, Milford, reported.

Lake Adventure attorney Tammy Clause and Dingman Township Solicitor John Klemeyer debated on the standards by which a recreational vehicle is measured. The township’s definition of a recreational vehicle was amended in June, setting a maximum size of 400 square feet (in use) and width (for transport) no greater than 8 1/2 feet, but trailers requiring state permitting were disallowed. The campground wants this last provision amended.

The size requirement was previously only in effect for travel trailers, but now encompass all recreational vehicles.

The amendment to the initial zoning ordinance, which came as a result of the alleged environmental damage caused by larger recreational vehicles, poses problems for residents of the Lake Adventure community who own vehicles that exceed the mandated 300 square feet and which now require special permits to move their trailers.

The Lake Adventure community and its contracted engineer, Robert Ferri of Nicholas Engineering, claim the 400-square-foot units have little impact on the environment, stating on the Lake Adventure website that “the new units actually have a positive impact on our (Lake Adventure’s) infrastructure and ecological environmental impact.”

During the meeting, Clause argued, as she had previously, that the board’s zoning amendment did not comply with other nationwide regulations for recreation vehicles. She additionally defended the lack of pollutants emitted from the 400-square-foot models.

In order to emphasize her point, she relied on the testimony of three witnesses: Lake Adventure Compliance Officer Kenny Ranoul, Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) board member John Soard and Lake Adventure board member Tom Annunziata.

Ranoul testified that of the 1,964 billable lots in Lake Adventure, 1,732 are occupied and 989 are park model units. Of those park model units, Ranoul said, 983 are “slide-outs,” or models that pop-out to reach a width greater than 12 feet. Under the amended ordinance, “slide-outs” would not classify as recreational vehicles and would consequently require a special highway hauling permit to be brought into Lake Adventure.

“There is no other community that is restricted by a hauling permit except for Lake Adventure Community Association,” Clause said, to Klemeyer’s objection.

“That’s simply not true,” he countered. “All recreational vehicles within the township must comply with the zoning ordinance.”

Following Klemeyer’s cross examination of Ranoul, in which Lake Adventure’s definition of a travel trailer was debated further, witnesses John Soard and Tom Annunziata took the stand.

Soard, affiliated with park model builder Fairmont Park Trailers in Nappanee, Ind., testified that he knew of no other jurisdictions in which 400-square-foot units required a hauling permit, prompting attorney Clause to make the case that the township’s amendment is not uniform with the rest of the state or even with the rest of the country. Annunziata added that as a newcomer to the community in 1989, he moved in under the assumption that recreational vehicles of all types were welcome.

With the three witnesses at rest, Clause attempted to present a report on the lack of environmental damage caused by the recreational vehicles in Lake Adventure. Her attempt prompted Klemeyer to object, claiming it was unrelated to the case at hand.

The board sided with Klemeyer.

Saying he lacked the resources to make a final argument, Klemeyer requested another meeting to finalize the proceedings. Despite Clause’s vehement objections, a new meeting was scheduled for Thursday Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.

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