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RV Resort Grand Reopening Sees 500+

July 28, 2014 by · Comments Off on RV Resort Grand Reopening Sees 500+ 

More than 500 people attended the Lake & Shore RV Resort Grand Reopening on July 19 that featured refreshments, games, two bounce house obstacle courses and musical entertainment by the popular local Beatles cover band, Revolve!

According to a written announcement from parent company Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., children enjoyed the planned activities that included a pool party, magician, slushie machine, prizes and a clown for face painting and balloon animals. The event highlighted the resort upgrades including an expanded beach area, renovated welcome center, new children’s playground, upgraded mini golf course and updated swimming pool.

The popular beach area was doubled in size. The mini golf course has new carpeting, landscaping and obstacles added. The final touches are complete on the new children’s playground equipment including new slides and swings. The resort’s Welcome Center features a completely renovated building that includes new flooring, painting, and lighting.

The event also celebrated the 45th Anniversary of ThousandTrails RV campgrounds, with more than 170 locations in 27 states.

Lake & Shore RV Resort is a family focused campground that offers cozy wooded sites and amenities including a waterpark swimming pool, hot tub, boating, beach fishing, bike trails, planned activities, kids’ activities and free Wi-Fi. The resort is located five miles from the famous Jersey Shore, 10 miles from historic Cape May, and 20 miles from Atlantic City.

Insiders: Membership Camping on a Rebound

July 16, 2013 by · Comments Off on Insiders: Membership Camping on a Rebound 

Rushmore Shadows, a Midwest Outdoor Resorts campground in South Dakota. 

After a prolonged downturn that began well before the Great Recession, membership camping seems to be on the rebound.

Major players in this oftentimes misunderstood segment of the outdoor hospitality business tell Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) that they are upbeat about the recent past and more so about the immediate future as regular campers as well as newcomers discover the appeal of membership camping.

That appeal revolves around the individual beauty of the member parks, the security that they afford every camper and the relative affordability in an era of ever-rising camping costs elsewhere in the public and private sector.

Under membership camping, members pay an upfront membership fee that is good for, say five to 10 years, or perhaps a lifetime, which allows members to access one or more resorts, if the resort is part of a network.

“We have seen the last five years, even with the economy upside down, we have had our best year, year after year. When life gets hard, people go camping,” said Mike Pournoury, CEO and majority owner of Texarkana, Texas-based Ocean Canyon Properties, a growing system of eight privately owned, membership resorts in the Southeast that offer spacious RV campsites, comfortable vacation cabins, cottages and condos along with a wide variety of private resort amenities. “The industry as a whole has been weak due to the fact that it is so fragmented, but if you talk to each company like ours, business is great, seriously. Several companies our size are just thriving in this industry. I have a real positive expectancy for the future of the membership industry.”

Bruce Hoster (left) of Coast to Coast Resorts and Mike Pournoury of Ocean Canyon Properties

Gene Addink, general manager and CEO of Midwest Outdoor Resorts, which owns and operates three resorts in South Dakota and Minnesota, agrees with Pournoury’s take on the business.

“Even in bad times, we were successful,” said Addink, who has been in the membership camping business since 1984 and led the team that founded Midwest Outdoor Resorts in 2000. “There was a little bit of a downturn in 2008-2009 but when the economy was at its worst, even then we were successful.”

Addink, whose company operates resorts near Rapid City, S.D., and two in the greater Minneapolis area, is looking to add a fourth resort this year, either in northern Minnesota or northern Wisconsin.

Pournoury and Addink say their companies are typical of the more than 50 membership camping systems that operate in the U.S. and Canada. Both maintain systems of upscale campgrounds that appeal to seasoned campers as well as newbies and also employ expert sales staffs that can walk prospects through the intricate concept of membership camping.

“It’s not like going to a KOA,” said Addink. “If you’re going to a KOA, you know what you’re getting. With membership camping, the concept has to be explained to people one on one. It is usually not a product people shop for. They have to be shown how it fits in their lifestyle. It’s a very misunderstood concept in the public’s eye.”

Gene Addink, CEO of Midwest Outdoor Resorts

Each membership camping system has its own set of rules, pricing and reciprocal agreements. The concept requires a full explanation before purchase.

“It takes a proactive marketing group that can find people who fit your demographic and then convince them to come to a presentation to learn about the program,” Addink said. In his 30 years in the business, he doubts whether more than five clients ever literally walked in off the street and purchased a membership without first undergoing a formal sales presentation.

Thousand Trails Zone Pass

The industry’s leading player, Thousand Trails, affiliated with Chicago-based real estate giant Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), has enlisted the ranks of the RV industry to help it sell memberships for its far-flung system of 80 RV resorts in 22 states and British Columbia. Today, more than 100,000 member families and guests enjoy its parks. Formerly only open to lifetime members, Thousand Trails has introduced the Zone Camping Pass, which provides a low-investment way to enjoy the benefits of resort-style camping on an annual basis.

An ELS spokesman was unavailable to speak with WCM. However, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at the end of 2012, ELS had these comments on its membership camping business.

“In the spring of 2010, Thousand Trails introduced low-cost membership products that focus on the installed base of almost 8 million RV owners. The company began offering a Zone Park Pass, which can be purchased for one to four zones of the United States and required annual payments in 2012 of $499. Beginning on Feb. 1, 2012, the required annual payments increased to $525.

“The Zone Pass replaced high cost products that were typically entered into at properties after tours and lengthy sales presentations. The company historically incurred significant costs to generate leads, conduct tours and make the sales presentations. A single zone ZPP requires no upfront (additional) payment while passes for additional zones require modest upfront payments.

“Since inception, ELS has entered into approximately 22,000 Zone Pass agreements. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, the company entered into approximately 10,100 Zone Pass agreements, or a 36.5% increase from approximately 7,400 for 2011.

“In 2012, the company initiated a program with RV dealers to feature the Zone Passes as part of the dealers’ sales and marketing efforts. In return, the company provides the dealer with a Zone Pass membership to give to the dealers’ customers in connection with the purchase of an RV.

Since the inception of the program with the RV dealers, the company has activated 1,289 Zone Passes and recorded approximately $140,000 of revenue through the end of 2012, ELS reported.

Travel Resorts of America

One of the cabins at the Travel Resorts of America campground in Gettysburg, Pa.

Another major membership camping player is Travel Resorts of America, based in Southern Pines, N.C., which operates six resorts in the eastern half of the U.S. Sycamore Lodge near Pinehurst, N.C., was its original resort, followed by Gettysburg Battlefield Resort “which with the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is our busiest this year,” noted David Petsolt, director of marketing. “We have three resorts in Ohio, Wally World Riverside Resort, Rocky Fork Ranch Resort and Pymatuning Adventure Resort, each providing a different experience. Finally, there is Twin Lakes Resort in Florida.”

The company’s expansion has been driven by two factors.

“First, although most are within an RVer’s drive time of each other, each is in a diverse geographic areas and easily accessible from major metropolitan areas,” Petsolt said. “Secondly, we seek properties where we know we can create a top-tier experience for our visitors – the resorts have to have the right ‘bones.’ Our goal is to ‘Wow’ our visitors with something unexpected and provide the backdrop for them to create unforgetable memories. The Mohican Riverbanks at Wally World, the History of Gettysburg, the rich outdoor activities at Rocky Fork Ranch, the waterslides at lake at Pymatuning Adventure, the great fishing at Twin Lakes, and the world-class golf surrounding Sycamore Lodge (Pinehurst #2 is home to the 2014 Men’s and Women’s Opens) – each of our resorts has something unique to offer our visitors, all with a focus of fun.”

While the firm does not have any immediate plans for further expansion, it is always on the lookout for the next opportunity – “but it has to be something special,” he stressed.

Coast to Coast

Bruce Hoster, president of Coast to Coast Resorts

The turnaround has been very noticeable at Coast to Coast Resorts, an affiliate of Good Sam Enterprises LLC. Coast to Coast does not own any of its own parks, however, it maintains reciprocal agreements with 208 member parks which allow people who buy memberships through Coast to Coast to visit any of the affiliates’ resorts.

“People see the value in this. That’s why the business has come back,” explained Bruce Hoster, president.

Of the 208 resort firms, approximately 50 are active sellers of memberships, Hoster estimates. “A lot are older resorts now owned by homeowner associations or they just don’t sell new memberships,” he said.

Besides Ocean Canyon Properties, Midwest Outdoor Resorts and Travel Resorts of America, Hoster identified Outdoor Adventures, based in Bay City, Mich., and Colorado River Adventures, a network of eight resorts on the West Coast and based in Earp, Calif., as active and growing in the membership camping market. Indeed, Outdoor Adventures with its five resorts in Michigan has been the top seller of Coast to Coast memberships for many years, he said.

“Coast is showing some nice growth the past two years and is setting some records this year with our new Premier product,” explained Hoster. “Membership camping (finally) seems to be making a comeback, and it’s (finally) fun working on Coast to Coast. It’s always nice when the numbers are good.”

Hoster, who has headed the Coast to Coast network since 2007, attributes the rebound to RVers seeing the value in memberships compared to other ownership positions.

Coast to Coast offers three types of memberships, classic (entry level), deluxe and premier. The latter, filled with benefits and relaunched in summer 2012, has been key to Coast to Coast’s rebound, Hoster maintains.

Member parks have made considerable investments in recent years to either upgrade their parks or add new ones, thus giving campers more camping options.

For example, Ocean Canyon Properties announced in April extensive renovations totaling $1 million have been taking place to improve members’ camping experiences at six of their resorts.

This map shows locations of Coast to Coast Resorts in U.S.

Not Just for RVers

And membership camping is not just for RVers.

“We look for people who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, probably age 35-plus and can afford the product. But you don’t need a camper to buy our product,” he noted.

Addink estimates that more than 50% of Midwest Outdoor Resorts members do not own their own RV. Instead, they rent RVs or covered shelter such as cabins and lodges at the resorts.

The love of the outdoors may be the crucial requirement for prospective membership campers. Minneapolis has a high percentage of RV owners, but even more so, it has a high percentage of people who enjoy the outdoors, Addink said. That’s why his company has a sales office in Minneapolis and operates two of its three resorts within an hour’s drive of there. It also makes for an easy trip to show prospects.

Pournoury’s Ocean Canyon Properties are strung out across the Southeast, making the sales presentation more problematic.

“There is no national ad campaign, no media advertising for membership camping,” Pournoury noted. “I’m sure if there was, there would be a lot more people coming to membership camping. Since the industry is so fragmented, the news does not get out.”

Still, he adds, “There are a lot of good operators in the industry that know how to market and how to cultivate their memberships. There is not much growth as far as new resorts joining membership camping because of that. It is a very tough field to master the marketing, the sales effort, the administration and the operations end.”

“It’s not just like opening an RV park and waiting for customers to come in. You have to go after them and grab the right kind for your product. If it is done the right way, it has a lot of rewards. Every company that is in the business and selling upward of 300 or 400 memberships a year is profitable and has been so for many years.”

 

Thousand Trails Launches June Sweepstakes

June 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on Thousand Trails Launches June Sweepstakes 

Photo from Thousand Trails’ Facebook page.

Thousand Trails is giving outdoor enthusiasts a chance to enjoy the outdoors with the Get Out and Camp sweepstakes.

Thousand Trails has decided to help with the “Great Outdoors Month” promotion by the recreation industry by awarding free camping to a few fortunate outdoor aficionados, according to a news release.

There will be two grand prizes awarded, and three second prizes. One lucky camper will win a complimentary Zone Camping Pass, valued at $525, and one current Thousand Trails member will receive a discount off of his or her annual dues (not to exceed $525).

An additional winner will be selected each week of the promotion to receive a second prize consisting of a complimentary week-long camping trip at any participating Thousand Trails campground or Encore RV Resort. Additional prizes may be awarded throughout the course of the sweepstakes, so it is important for entrants to check back for surprise announcements.

To enter, visit the Thousand Trails Facebook page at Facebook.com/ThousandTrails. Participants have the opportunity to share a link and receive additional entries when their Facebook friends enter the sweepstakes. Details and qualifications for participation in this promotion may apply and are stated on the Thousand Trails Facebook page. The contest will run through June 24, 2013.

About Encore and Thousand Trails

Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV resorts feature 173 RV locations across North America. Owned and operated by Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., Thousand Trails and their affiliates offer RV and outdoor recreation enthusiasts opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in top vacation destinations, complemented with resort-style amenities.

 

El Monte RV Partners with ELS Campgrounds

May 15, 2013 by · Comments Off on El Monte RV Partners with ELS Campgrounds 

El Monte RV deal

El Monte RV has teamed up with Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV resorts to create all inclusive RV getaways.

The getaway includes an RV rental from any El Monte RV location nationwide with overnight campground accommodations at over 170 locations, unlimited mileage and free generator use for as low as $99 per night, according to a news release.

From now until May 24, RV enthusiasts can buy a certificate from El Monte RV for $15 that guarantees deeply discounted all inclusive getaway package rates for reservations from El Monte RV for three to 14 nights. These rates apply to reservations that occur from now through December 2013.

RV rental options include a Class C Cabover style C25 for $99 per night, Class C Cabover style C28 for $149 per night and a Class A family sleeper for $199 per night. Overnight RV site accommodations are included in the rental at over 170 Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV resorts locations.

For more information about the all inclusive RV getaways, visit the Cool Deals section of www.elmonterv.com.

 

Thousand Trails Announces Camping Contest

April 1, 2013 by · Comments Off on Thousand Trails Announces Camping Contest 

Contest runs through April 30.

Thousand Trails is giving outdoor enthusiasts a chance to get out and camp with the “Gear Up and Camp” sweepstakes.

According to a press release, one camper will win a free week of camping and a camping gear package, with a combined value of $1,100. Sweepstakes entrants will also be entered for a chance to win one of four second place prize packages, and one of 30 third place prize packages daily.

The sweepstakes grand prize includes a week-long camping trip for the winner at any participating Thousand Trails or Encore RV resort campground. In addition, the winner will receive a package of camping gear, including the following: Rand McNally’s RV-specific GPS device – the RVND 7720 LM; $100 gas card; Strongback Chair; Coghlan’s Camper’s S’mores Grill and Corn Popper; Coleman Lantern; $50 MyRVMarket.com gift certificate; Thousand Trails sweatshirt, umbrella, window cling, backpack, blanket and travel mug; and a Duck Harbor Cool Weather Sleeping bag.

Four additional winners will be selected each week of the promotion to receive a second prize package that includes a week-long camping trip at any participating Thousand Trails or Encore RV resort campground and a package including a Thousand Trails backpack, blanket, travel mug and window cling.

Thirty winners will be selected at the end of each day of the promotion to receive a Thousand Trails camping pack, which includes a backpack, blanket, travel mug and window cling. All in all, 35 prizes will be awarded throughout the course of the Thousand Trails Gear Up and Camp sweepstakes.

To enter, visit the Thousand Trails Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ThousandTrails. Entrants are also encouraged to invite their Facebook friends to enter for additional entries. All official terms and conditions can be found on the Thousand Trails Facebook page. The contest will run through April 30.

AGS to Market Some Texas Guides for 1000 Trails

December 20, 2012 by · Comments Off on AGS to Market Some Texas Guides for 1000 Trails 

AGS representatives Michelle and Jay Fitz (left) with 1000 Trails Manager Marty Scoggins.

AGS, a division of Texas Advertising, has been selected by four 1000 Trails properties in Texas to handle marketing for their guest services guides.

AGS representative Jay Fitz has just finished marketing the first property in Columbus, Texas, and manager Marty Scoggins is looking forward to more, according to a news release.

“Switching to AGS to provide our Guest Services Guide for 2013 at Thousand Trails Colorado River has been a great experience,” said Scoggins. “The team at AGS has been very responsive and professional in putting together our new guide to give our preserve, guests, and local businesses the attention to detail they deserve. I am excited to see the new guide that will be available in March 2013 because it has grown so much with new advertisers, content, and visual appeal.”

But perhaps the most important benefit to Scoggins in switching to AGS was the improvement in customer service.

“Marketing my campground and the businesses we work with just became much more enjoyable and we anticipate that greater profits will follow. Jay and Michelle are heading to our Thousand Trails Medina Lake preserve next and AGS will also be providing high-quality Guest Service Guides for two of our other Texas Thousand Trails preserves. We look forward to the results.”

In addition to the upgrade in customer service, those 1000 Trails properties will also receive a online version of their guide and be eligible for the AGS Customer Loyalty Program. For those parks that qualify, they start receiving a $250 credit towards any of AGS’, or sister company TXAD Internet Services’, marketing services and products whether it’s print or online.

To see samples or more information about AGS, visit www.AGSPub.com or call (877) 518-1989.

 

ELS Promoting Parks Through RV Dealers

August 21, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Read this and other stories in the September issue of Woodall’s Campground Management now on its way to readers across North America.

Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), the nation’s largest RV park owner/operator, is currently testing a rather unique new promotion involving its Thousand Trails membership-based “preserves” and a few aggressive, multi-store RV dealerships in an effort to “leverage that great lifestyle and open up to more of the RV universe.”

It’s all part of a new “global relationship” ELS is trying to foster between the industry that produces and sells the RVs and the American public that purchases and recreates in those leisure-time products – a relationship that ELS CEO Thomas Heneghan and President and CFO Marguerite Nader feel is long overdue.

Although there are other potential new components on the table, such as social media initiatives and online parts and accessories sales, the crux of ELS’s new program is that a consumer buying an RV from any participating dealer will receive a free year’s membership to access parks in one of four zones among the 80 Thousand Trails preserves in 22 states and British Columbia.

“What we’re really trying to do is develop products in relation to the RV dealer that help him and us,” says Heneghan, whose 4,000-employee company also operates 90 Encore parks as well as some 200 manufactured home communities. “We think that buying an RV embedded with the lifestyle aspects is a natural and should be something that happens much more frequently than it does. And we designed this kind of dealer program to find RV dealerships across the U.S. that were excited about the opportunity to sell RVs to consumers along with the lifestyle that comes attached with that vehicle so that they’re getting the hotdog and the hotdog bun all at the same time.

“So, that’s been the program,” Heneghan told Woodall’s Campground Management, “but it’s really part of a larger strategy. We don’t really just want to have that one event. We want to have a relationship with the RV dealerships that understand that staying in contact with the customer – meeting that customer’s needs – is going to increase his ability to sell more vehicles over time and get that repeat buyer.”

ELS Approaches Dealers

Heneghan says publicly held ELS, which posted 2011 revenues of $580 million, first approached several leading RV manufacturers with the idea, but ultimately turned to retailers as the front-line contact on the premise that a Thousand Trails-dealer connection represents “a sales tool so the guys selling the vehicle can talk about all the geographical areas you can take this RV to.”

In the process, ELS’s management learned that “there was not very much awareness of what the consumer did with the RV after it left the dealer’s lot” because retailers did not stay in touch with their customers after the sale.

ELS conducted a “soft launch” of the program in March in eight dealerships among those operated by La Mesa RV Center, San Diego, Calif.; Campers Inn, Merrimack, N.H., and McMahon’s RV, Irvine, Calif. And plans call for accelerating the program in the coming months. Thus far, several hundred memberships have been conveyed to new unit buyers through the trial membership program, reported Heneghan, whose company has also been test marketing online parts and accessories sales at www.myrvmarket.com as part of its new initiative.

Response ‘Almost Infectous’

“The initial response has been so positive, almost infectious,” he noted. “We wanted to see how the summer went. We wanted to make sure we could fulfill the expectations all the way through for the customer” before formally launching the program nationwide.

In its drive to become more of a household word in the recreational vehicle sector, a move in which former Affinity Group Inc. and Thousand Trails President Joe McAdams has played an advisory role for ELS, all of the dealerships have initiated their own retail advertising for the program. In some of the ads, the dealerships are co-branding both Thousand Trails and their retail store.

“We put our sales people in contact with the RV dealership sales people,” noted Heneghan. “There’s coordination with respect to how to market the product with the RV. There’s additional training for the on-site dealership people so that they can feature-benefit the ability to use this product with their RV the minute they make that buy decision. There’s been surveying going on the whole way, and what we’re finding out in the surveys is that they’re very excited about the program and that 90% of the customers would refer it to a friend. The average perceived value these customers are seeing (in the one-year membership) is $800, but some are seeing $2,000-plus of value when they’re buying this RV embedded with this ability to go camping immediately.

“We’ve seen that the customers who have bought this product have immediately made reservations,” he added. “We can see that they’re actually out there using the product, and we can verify the satisfaction that these customers are actually having when they’re out there at the properties.”

Approximately half of the RV sales at the eight participating stores are to first-time RV owners. “Part of our overall strategy was that we wanted a relationship with RV dealers who stay in contact with their customers, which will help them sell RVs over time as owners upgrade their RVs,” Heneghan said. “Everything we have done thus far has turned out extremely positive.”

ELS’s management, in the process, feels the RV industry in general may learn more about Equity LifeStyle Properties, a firm that could best be described as a quiet giant best known today for its 24,000-site Thousand Trails preserves, which currently offer both private membership and open-to-the-public components.

“We have more than 170 RV resorts (including Encore resorts) across the country, about 64,000 sites, and we like to say that ‘our customers stay with us a day, a week, a month, a season or a lifetime,’” says Nader. “So, we deal with any length of time. We operate properties all across the country from Bar Harbor, Maine, to the Florida Keys and over to the Rio Grande Valley, Arizona and then all up and down the western coast of the United States.”

Zone Park Pass

To stay in step with post-recessionary times and grow the 96,000-member network, Thousand Trails – a venerable name in the membership campground business which used to offer an array of contract terms up to lifetime status that often sold for as much as $5,000 – has reduced the terms of its most affordable ($499) membership recently to one year while retaining some more elaborate membership benefit offerings.

“Right now, we’re selling a one-year membership, our Zone Park Pass, which is what we’ve been working on with dealers,” adds Nader. “It’s a one-year-pass-access to those Thousand Trails properties. You can access them for 14 days at a time; then you have to be out of the system for seven days.”

This new approach has something to do with the economy, says Heneghan, but more to do with a broader effort to become more customer friendly and attractive to new RV buyers. “So, we’ve been trying to leverage that great lifestyle that you can have in our properties and figure out how we can open ourselves up to much more of the RV universe of potential customers,” he explained. “And one key facet of that was adjusting our products to being more responsive to a newcomer to the industry who wasn’t really ready, willing or able to pay a lot for an initial membership through Thousand Trails. So we’ve now lowered that cost, that initial barrier to entry.”

“We listened to our customers and potential customers,” adds McAdams. “They have told us they want to stay with us, they want to experience the freedom to visit multiple Thousand Trails locations and to use the wide array of amenities we offer. Many RVers and campers want the increased flexibility that comes with an annual pass type program.”

ELS, meanwhile, remains committed to the membership format at its preserves, mostly picturesque locations with spacious campsites and plenty of social activities from barbecues to ice cream socials and pancake breakfasts. Located in secure gated environments, preserve amenities typically include large swimming pools, spas, hiking trails, lodges, lakes, miniature golf, fishing and boating.

“Once you become a customer, the degree of satisfaction is very, very positive,” said Heneghan. “People love being part of the Thousand Trails properties and lifestyle.”

The Latest RV Parks and Campgrounds Briefs

July 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on The Latest RV Parks and Campgrounds Briefs 

WASHINGTON

From a News Release:

Two of Thousand Trails’ Washington campgrounds, Chehalis Campground and Mount Vernon Campground, will host the Wenatchee Youth Circus this August and September.

Known as the “Biggest Little Circus in the World,” the youth circus is celebrating its 60th season of wowing audiences with displays of juggling, tight wire walking, high-flying aerial acrobats and other professional circus acts.

Circus entertainers are comprised of local Wenatchee talents and performers from around the world, ranging in age from 3 to 18 years old. The circus travels to more than 25 towns and cities during a season. Playing to over 10,000 audience members, the youth circus performs around 50 shows each summer.

The Wenatchee Youth Circus will be performing at Thousand Trails’ Chehalis Campground August 4-5. Show times are 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. on Sunday. The Mount Vernon Campground performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 1 and on Sunday, September 2 at 2 p.m. All performances are open to the public.

NORTH DAKOTA

From KFYR-TV, Bismarck:

After a series of renovations, a badlands area campground has opened to the public. The Burning Coal Vein Campground, located about 28 miles south of Medora on the Little Missouri National Grassland, is now open.

According to the Forest Service, renovations include improved roads and parking spurs, new picnic tables and grills, and potable water via water well with a hand pump.

The southern trailhead of the Maah Daah Hey Trail is located at the campground.

The Forest Service adds that the Buffalo Gap Campground is experienceing water problems. The service says that inadequate water supply and pressure has resulted in the flush toilets being closed. The showers are still open, but water quantity is limited and is cold water only, and water is available at only some of the spigots.

The vault toilet near the picnic shelter is still open.

ALBERTA

From the Banff Cragg & Canyon:

A bear that got into human food and garbage at the Two Jack campground has prompted a warning from Parks Canada.

A young black bear got into an unsecured cooler at one campsite, and then was seen eating garbage at another site causing concern for the area. Parks Canada staff captured the bear Tuesday morning (July 24) and fitted it with an ear tag transmitter, but because it was so small, they were unable to put a radio collar on it.

“We’ll be monitoring it very closely over the next several days and engaging in some adverse conditioning if it continues to frequent the campsite,” said human-wildlife conflict specialist Steve Michel.

The bear was scheduled to have a “hard release” Tuesday afternoon, meaning it would be let go with adverse conditioning to scare it away from returning to the campground.

Parks Canada issued the warning on Monday for both the Two Jack Main and Lakeside campgrounds to reminded campers to be cautious of their surroundings, and to ensure their campsites are kept clean.

Having a young bear introduced to human food is concerning, Michel said, because the bear could continue to seek out that food source.

Michel said park wardens have dealt with the campers at both sites where food and garbage was left out.

NEWFOUNDLAND

From CBC News:

A forest fire just west of St. John’s, Newfoundland, near Cochrane Pond Park, forced the evacuation of a nearby campground and a chicken farm on Tuesday afternoon (July 24).

With the fire knocked down, the evacuation order was relaxed by 6 p.m.

The fire was burning several miles south of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Provincial forest fire duty officer Dan Lavigne said nine firefighters tackled the blaze on the ground. They were assisted by a helicopter and a water bomber.

Thick dark smoke could be seen from the highway throughout the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the forest fire was one of nine burning across the island of Newfoundland. Seven of those were either under control or contained. The other is still classified as “out of control” near Duck Pond on the west coast.

CALIFORNIA

From the Fresno Bee:

Huntington Lake’s largest campground — Rancheria — remains closed for a second straight summer due to “unscheduled holdups,” said Red Wood, operations director for California Land Management.

The 149-site campground has been closed since the fall of 2010 due to refurbishing. It was originally slated to be open in mid-July.

Rancheria represents more than 50 percent of all designated campsites in the Huntington Lake area. Its closure has impacted not only campers but business owners around the lake.

New pavement, bathrooms and signage have been installed at Rancheria, but a spray-painted “campground closed” sign keeps onlookers away.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A 12-year-old boy was injured Wednesday morning when a 40-foot tall tree fell on his family’s tent in a San Mateo County campground, authorities said.

The boy was camping with members of his extended family at the Sequoia Oaks overnight campsite in Memorial Park, in an unincorporated area about seven miles east of Pescadero, said Lt. Larry Schumaker, a spokesman for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. He was sharing the tent with another boy when the oak tree fell at about 5 a.m.

The tree, which was about 2 1/2 feet in diameter, crushed the boy’s pelvis, said Assistant County Manager David Holland. Its branches hit the family’s other tents, but nobody else was seriously injured. The other boy in the tent suffered minor cuts and bruises.

The boy, who authorities are not identifying because of his age, was taken to an intensive care unit in critical condition, Holland said. He remained in a hospital Wednesday night.

Although the tree had some rot in it, its outward appearance showed no hazards that park officials would have marked as dangerous, Holland said.

The boy used to live in the Bay Area with his family but had moved to Arizona, Schumaker said.

Yosemite Campground Added to Bus Rroute

July 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on Yosemite Campground Added to Bus Rroute 

Yosemite area transit bus system adds stop at a Thousand Trails campground. Yosemite Falls is in the background.

A new public transportation route for the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) will now make a stop at Thousand Trails’ Yosemite Lakes Campground. The Sonora Highway 120N Route will stop at the campground’s country store daily through Sept. 30, according to a news release.

Initiated in May 2000, YARTS has provided park visitors with a convenient, comfortable and economical ride into the park. Allowing Yosemite National Park visitors to bypass the long waits and frustrations of finding suitable parking, the buses drop off and pick up passengers at the visitor’s center. Once inside the park, visitors can tour the park on the free shuttles.

The bus will stop at Yosemite Lakes at 10:06 a.m. and return at 6:24 p.m. during weekdays. On weekends and holidays departure times from Yosemite Lakes are 8:48 a.m., 10:06 a.m. and 1:28 p.m. Buses will return to the campground at 11:24 a.m., 6:24 p.m. and 8:24 p.m.

Round-trip tickets from Yosemite Lakes Campground to the visitors’ center are available for purchase from the driver. Ticket prices are $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and children under 12. One child, age 12 and under, can ride for free with a parent. The park’s gate fee is included in the fare.

All buses are equipped to accept wheelchairs.

To learn more about YARTS, call (877) 989-2787 or visit www.Yarts.com.

To learn more about Thousand Trails’ Yosemite Lakes Preserve or any of the other properties located across the country, call (866) 730-0637 or visit www.ThousandTrails.com.

 

Park Models Gain Popularity in Some Virginia Campgrounds

July 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on Park Models Gain Popularity in Some Virginia Campgrounds 

Some of the park models available for rent at Outdoor World, Williamsburg, Va.

When Cleyardis Yilmaz joined Thousand Trails two years ago and gained access to all of the company’s recreational vehicle resorts and campgrounds in North America, she didn’t know it would change her life.

The eighth-grade English teacher visited a campground in Orlando, Fla., in 2010, rented a cabin and discovered she enjoyed the vacation so much that she wanted to find a campground closer to her Virginia home in Lakeview, near Petersburg, the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, reported.

She not only found Outdoor World Williamsburg, just off Interstate 64 near Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, Yorktown and Jamestown, but she also found a second home – called a “park model” cottage – that she was able to purchase.

The 28-foot-long unit sits smack dab in the middle of the RV resort, close to the indoor and outdoor pool, adult hot tub and pickleball and miniature golf courses.

Yilmaz makes the 45-minute-to-an-hour drive every weekend to visit her unit, tend to her plants on the deck and partake in the park’s amenities.

“I’m enjoying the adult lounge,” Yilmaz said recently during one of the hottest days of the summer. “I’m working on a puzzle right now.”

While these units are nothing new to the outdoor-recreation industry, more and more resorts are selling them and offering sites on their properties where people, like Yilmaz, can get away and own a second home without shelling out a lot of money.

“In the last few years, with the economy being what it is, it’s become – for Middle America – an affordable second-home option,” said David Gorin, executive director of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA).

Legally, park models are recreational vehicles, Gorin said, and always have a place in RV parks. But they mainly stay put.

Basically, they are suites of no more than 400 square feet that come in all kinds of configurations, Gorin said.

“In many parks, they are there as rental units,” Gorin said. “If you want to go to an RV park, and you don’t own an RV, you have an option of renting a cabin or park model.”

Campgrounds – from the small, independently owned ones to the biggest resort chains – are investing in park models, according to Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association’s (RPTIA) website, www.rptia.com. Roughly a third of the nation’s privately owned campgrounds now offer their guests such options as rentals, the association said.

Bill and Rachel Rhoads, owners of American Heritage RV Park outside Williamsburg, recently received the zoning OK for 85 park models.

A nicely landscaped park model at American Heritage RV Park near Williamsburg, Va.

American Heritage is buying the units for about $75,000 apiece and locating them in the RV park, Rhoads said. Seasonal rent – Memorial Day to Labor Day – will run $3,000 to 4,000 a month depending on the unit, he said.

At that price, people get a place to stay not only with electricity, running water and working toilets but also with access to the RV park’s pool, waterslide and game room.

“It’s another hospitality accommodation style other than a door-to-door motel room,” Rhoads said.

Purchase prices depend on where you put the model, whether it’s at a beach-front resort like Myrtle Beach, S.C., or on more inland properties like Williamsburg, Gorin said.

Park models typically sell for about $40,000, according to the RPTIA.

The association said campgrounds, RV parks and resorts in most states will lease sites to park-model owners at annual fees ranging from about $2,000 to $8,000 or more, depending on location.

“It’s a good lifestyle for a lot people,” Gorin said.

At Outdoor World Williamsburg, resort manager Gary Bock has seen the park models gain in popularity with the buying crowd.

Bock, who has managed the property for the past 12 years, said the campground’s owner, Equity LifeStyle Properties, started to sell the resort’s units – ranging in price from $999 to $2,499 – four years ago. Of the 40 units, about a dozen have sold. Owners are required to sign a three-year lease for the site at $2,450 a year, Bock said.

Outdoor World offers four different styles in two basic sizes – 28 or 38 feet long.

Throw out preconceived notions that these units look like the cabins of yore – with uncomfortable cots and sparse furnishings, if any.

Park models today look like small houses, some with gable roofs, others with hardwood floors, granite countertops, upscale cabinets and bay windows.

Outdoor World’s models either resemble log cabins or small trailers with vinyl siding.

They offer a living room-kitchen combination with a bedroom and a bathroom, or a bedroom, bathroom and loft. Larger models include two bedrooms and two baths.

Each has a trailer hitch, said Bock, who lives on the property in a park model. Each also is built on a trailer chassis, with axles mounted to make it a recreational vehicle, according to www.myparkmodels.com. Manufacturers are supposed to build to industry standards that cover everything from plumbing and electrical to size and structure, the site said.

But, as Gorin said, these suites at 12 feet wide are bulky and wider than most recreational vehicles, so transporting them every weekend isn’t really an option.

That’s why many folks – such as Gary and Janet Hamilton of Wilson, N.C. – choose to buy them at a resort they intend to visit over and over again.

The Hamiltons are pros at camping, starting with tents and moving up to motorhomes and finally park models.

“We come here whenever we can get here,” said Janet Hamilton.

They like being able to use the indoor pool and hot tub in the winter (Outdoor World opens only on weekends from early December to late March), and “we like the people who live here,” Gary Hamilton said.

The Hamiltons’ one-bedroom, one-loft cottage sits on the outskirts of the main camp area. Next door is a cottage owned by the couple’s daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Elton Whitley, along with their four children. They all bought their park models on the same day four years ago.

The Whitleys put hardwood floors in their unit. Janet and Gary have decorated their cottage with rustic relics, like lanterns hanging from the tall ceilings and little signs that read, “Home is where the story begins” or “Dance as if no one is watching.”

The couple also owns a park model in Lake Royale, N.C., with an enclosed porch.

“Best thing we ever did; we love it,” Janet Hamilton said.

Added Gary Hamilton: “We’re not going to go back to that other kind of camping.”

 

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