Campgrounds RV Parks Rent Park Model Cabins Give Travelers Kitchens, Bathrooms and Lofts for Kids

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Campgrounds, RV Parks Rent Luxury Park Model Camper Cabins

From California to Maine, campgrounds and RV parks are increasingly competing head-to-head with hotels, and they're doing it with park models - cozy, cottage like units that give travelers their own personal space with full-size kitchens and bathrooms and, in some cases, lofts for the kids.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., June 13, 2007 /PRNewswire/ -- For three decades, El Capitan Canyon catered exclusively to RV and tent camping enthusiasts seeking a quiet getaway in a rugged oak- and sycamore-lined canyon on the California coast, just west of Santa Barbara.

But six years ago, El Capitan's management invested in nearly 100 park model cabins and instantly transformed this primitive campground into a luxury resort. "It's a totally different experience now," said Terri Bowman, general manager of El Capitan Canyon resort.

Of course, El Capital still offers 80 RV sites and 20 tent sites, but with its luxurious park model cabins, the resort has strengthened its business base and now caters to a much broader clientele that includes everyone from honeymooners to business executives seeking a quiet location for their corporate retreats.

"We offer a camping experience for people who either don't want to camp or have been camping all their lives and don't want to sleep on the ground any more," Bowman said.

It's a concept that is spreading like wildfire in the campground business. Indeed, from California to Maine, campgrounds and RV resorts are increasingly investing in park models as a way to accommodate travel enthusiasts who increasingly seek luxury accommodations even in the most rustic of surroundings.

Unlike manufactured homes, recreational park trailers or "park models" are 400-square foot movable resort cottages that are designed exclusively for part-time recreational use. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts as well as walnut, oak or maple cabinetry.

Park Model

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Campgrounds like them because they enable them to accommodate people who don't have a tent or RV, but still want to enjoy an outdoor camping experience.

In the past 10 years, in fact, private campgrounds and RV resorts have purchased more than 18,000 park models, which they've either placed on poor performing RV sites or simply added to unused areas of their property, Garpow said.

"Park models have literally enabled campgrounds to move into the accommodations business," said Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). He added that while many campgrounds have offered a small number of site-built cabins for years, the numbers of park model camper cabin and cottage units are growing because they can often be installed without building permits.

"It's possible for campgrounds to order these units and have them delivered to the park within a month or two. And when they arrive, they're turnkey, ready to rent. All the park has to do is hook these units up to the utilities and they're ready to go," Garpow said.

Roughly half of the nation's campgrounds and RV resorts now offer park models for rent, including parks affiliated with Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Equity LifeStyle Properties. And the numbers are increasing as growing numbers of campgrounds see the benefits of diversifying their business base with park models.

"We've had park models for about eight years and have found that they stay pretty booked throughout the summer," said Maddy Simmons, a manager for California's Trinity Lake Resort at Pinewood Cove. "They're almost like timeshares," she said. "We've had people who rent them and like them so much that they book them again for the same time next year."

Some campgrounds and RV resorts, in fact, have found that demand is so strong for park models that they can lease or sell campsites to people who want to buy their own park model and use it at the campground as a vacation cottage. Snug Harbor, a campground on Ryer Island in the California Delta, north of San Francisco, is one such park that is pursuing this business model.

The park has 18 park models for rent, while it also leases an additional 15 campsites for people who own their own units, said Nicky Suard, the park's owner.

Meanwhile, other campgrounds and RV resort offer rental units while also serving as dealers for park model manufacturers.

For more information about campgrounds' use of park model rentals or their sales of these units as weekend retreats and vacation cottages, please contact Bill Garpow at (770) 251-2672 or visit the website of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association.

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