Why you can’t ever find a space at some RV parks

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By Chuck Woodbury
A friend of mine owns an RV park. There are about 100 sites and some cabins. The park, like most others, has a busy season and a slow season. He has owned the park for a dozen years and has many loyal customers — many families — that return time and time again, often for summer vacations.

One day, a man showed up at his park. He represented a company that would soon be laying a pipeline in the area. Hundreds of workers were required, and as is often the case, many travel from place to place, job to job, with RVs, most often fifth wheel trailers.


He asked my friend if he would like to rent out his entire campground for a year. He said “Tell me what you would earn if every campsite in your park was filled every day of the year. How much money would you take in?”

And then he said, “Whatever that amount is, add 20% and that is what I will pay you to rent your park for a year.”

When you see a big propane tank next to an RV, you know its inhabitant is there to stay for awhile — seasonally, even year round.

Let’s face it, that would add up to a whole lot more money than my friend would ever earn in a year — I bet it would be at least triple what he normally takes in. And there would be no worries about reservations or checking customers in and out every day. He’d receive a check every month, and life would be pretty darn simple.

Well, my friend turned the man down. Sure, it was tempting to take the big money, but my friend knew that if he booked his place with pipeline workers, he’d lose his regular customers. In the long run, that might cost him a whole lot more than what he’d realize renting the place to the pipeline company. And it would be a slap in the face to his long-term customers, spoiling some family traditions.

Some park owners don’t say no. They take the easy money. And then, when you or I are passing through their area and need a place to stay, they turn us down: No vacancy!

At a time when more RVs are on the road than ever, this sort of thing is not helping those of us who use our RVs primarily for recreational purposes and not as a dwelling that we pull or drive from place to place to work our jobs.

##RVT925

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Steve

Tempting and I can see both sides. I would have a compromise. I will rent you 1/2 of the campground and if you tell me when and how many by week, I will offer these unused sites to others. We get the best of both.

Silas Longshot

Seems a personal business decision which could be an advantage to the owner and the customers as well. This particular scenario hints the CG owner makes enough in season to survive (barely?) thru the off season. If he used 100% of his CG for the pipe crew’s ‘man camp’, certainly he risks alienating his long term users. But if he allowed 50% for the pipe crew, then he’s got winter expenses covered and still has room for a lot of his regular visitors. The regulars could then make their reservations ahead of time, so if he managed that well, then it should work out pretty well for everyone. Lots of small independent CG owners already have a majority of their spots effectively ‘permanently’ going to long term residents (can’t call ’em travelers, right?) to solve the off season lack of income.

Denny Wagaman

In this day and age I most likely would have rented it to the oil workers.

It’s not about principle (whose principles yours, theirs, mine) it’s about income that could (maybe) help improve this campground, (be able to perform any needed upgrades to make jt more competitive in the market place ) put money in the bank if there wasn’t much for that rainy day, I would want more information though about his finances, about the CG income/loss, CG condition, current and past return on investment. I guess that the owner made the decision that he wanted to make. Trust his judgement but that doesn’t mean that other CG owners should or could make that same decision.

Wm Macdermod

I can see the benefits of this either way.
If you befriend the people who are visiting or seasonal you may want to stay loyal to that crowdas they tend to form a community.
On the other side if you contract it out for a year, the following year will be like starting a new business all over again. I don’t think many of your former customers would be returning to help out.

Alvin

Anyone, even casually RV’ing has seen this. And the campground owners who succumb to the temptation, end up with a camp that looks like and oil field dwelling site too. Greed will almost always trump sensibilities. I’m very pleased to know there’s at least one Park owner with a sense of community, and moral business acumen.

Belinda Lopez

It’s rather common in the oilfield and large construction areas for many RVers to pay to keep their site even if they are not there for a few months. They risk not being to have a spot if they don’t. Great for the owners but can be deceiving to folks looking for spaces.

Sharon Boehmer

We stay in a park that is in this very situation in Mansfield,LA. This is our “home” park for 2-4weeks a couple of times a year. Our owners rented out 2/3 of their park for the pipeline work, but they kept some
15- 20 spaces or so for overnight guests as they are trying to build up their PA business. Probably will take some of the profit to make some improvements to the park. They are good people and will do the right thing by us travelers.

Liz

Countrysidemotelandrv.com will have a sight for you vacationers. Located in Door County Wisconsin

Cheryl Bacon

I hope you don’t mind when companies (insurance, utility contractors, etc) rent out whole campgrounds during a natural disaster also. This happens frequently during hurricane season.

Carson Axtell

The wholesale selling out of campgrounds is an example of what happens when short-term profit wins out over concern for the business’s long-term reputation, a common practice these days. This behavior seems less common in Europe where there is a long history of carefully guarding reputation over immediate profit, probably as a result of the tradition of businesses and craftsmen receiving the recognition and patronage of the aristocracy, and therefore others, for the quality of their workmanship and service. “Yankee ingenuity” on the other hand often just goes straight for the maximum cash as quickly as possible…

Gene Bjerke

When I was sailing (waterborne RV) most marinas kept a few transient slips. It seems like campgrounds could follow the same idea. I imagine they would tend to be rented frequently (at least during the high season).

Mark

There’s a campground in the eastern sierras outside of Bridgeport Ca. that my family has been going to annually for 56 years typically for 2-3 weeks at a time. It’s a beautiful place that is mostly dry camping. The hookup spots are always occupied by employees and the seasonal visitors, and they don’t take reservations. In the past several years, we’ve noticed more and more people are arriving as the campground opens at the beginning of the season and leave their rigs there for the entire season visiting occasionally. (We have been there several times and never seen anyone at some of these rigs.) We’ve also noticed a larger number of rental trailers from a local rental co. in town that spot the trailer for you. They are also sitting vacant for long periods. We have since stopped going due to it getting more difficult to get a decent spot. It’s a shame, we’re in our fourth generation going there and we are really disappointed. This has been our “second home” our entire lives.
Here’s a perfect example of the owner just being concerned about the mighty dollar. All he’s concerned about is filling the spots whether the rigs are occupied or not.

J anne

I pay 50 month open storage locked lot which also has storage heated and unheated for teg stuff.all the sun exposure did a number on my B on white chevy express 3500 ext. Notorious for peeling. I do not travel in summer and realize the storage building seasonal storage might be choice for me when everyone takes out boats and RVs from may to Oct. Sure enough owner agreed so pay 80 month in covered and 50 uncovered.at least I avoid worst of sun and horrific high wind thunderstorms etc

mdstudey

The RV places that contain workers are “man” camps. Here in Texas they will set up their own man camps out in the oil fields. Maybe a few women and/or family in them.

Drew

I guess the saving grace here is that most of the rv parks located near big projects are probably in areas that lack natural beauty. We traveled through an area like that a few years ago near the shale areas of S. Dakota (or maybe it was N. Dakota). The place was as bleak as could be. Every so often we’d pass a pipe that had a flame shooting out of the top. But wow, the rv parks, motels, etc. were all full (not that we were trying to find a place to stay). If you were a kid you could set up a lemonade stand right next to the flame shooting out of the ground.

Sink Jaxon

good article!

Bob Godfrey

Proof that some folks still have principles. Nice.

Mark B

It’s obvious we need the WPA (or Elon Musk) to solve this problem. The WPA could hire new arrivals with lower skill sets and underemployed people to build new campgrounds, but first they could clear an area for other temporary project workers (pipeline, solar, wind turbines, infrastructure bridges/roads/tunnels, hyperloop, border wall building, etc).

After the park’s campground is built, the cleared area could be converted to a venue area for festivals, concerts, a solar farm, maybe a Trump casino. Parks wouldn’t need to be 1500 square miles. Woodstock happened on a 600 acre farm, less than 1 square mile.

Tommy Molnar

I think the point of this article is to show that someone decided not to go for the short term gain that would most likely turn into a long term loss. It might not even be that the CG owner had tons of integrity. Just good business acumen.

James L Copeland

Chuck, your observations sound like the CG owners and the workers are the bad guys. I retired from the Navy in 1996 and it took me 4 years to find a full time job. If I owned that CG I’d jump at the chance to make guaranteed money. If I’d had a chance to find full time work the day I retired and had to follow it around the country I’d jump at the chance. People are driven by the circumstances of their life and it seems wrong to criticize what they do because it impacts our easy life. The real problem is not enough RV parks , not that the ones available are full with workers.