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More Families Favor Park Model Rentals At Campgrounds And RV Resorts

Mike O'Connell and his wife have a motorhome. But when the O'Connells take their three, 13-year-old daughters to Snug Harbor Resort, a scenic campground on an island in the California Delta, they leave it at home.

"We don't need our motorhome there," Mike O'Connell said. "They have park models we can rent. It's a step up from camping. It's like having our own little house on island. It's our daughters' favorite place to camp."

Recreational park trailers or "park models" are 400-square foot cottages on wheels, and they are increasingly being set up in campgrounds and RV resorts across North America. These units are too big to tow, however. They have to be professionally moved. But because they are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they can be set up on campsites and used as a vacation cottage.

And because park models come equipped with bay windows, lofts, full-size appliances and other creature comforts, campground and RV resort operators across the United States and Canada are increasingly using them to accommodate people who don't have an RV or who simply want a little more space and the comforts of home.

Private parks that now offer park models for rent include many campgrounds in the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Yogi Bear chains as well as RV resorts affiliated with Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties and Morgan RV Resorts of Queensbury, New York. Numerous independent campgrounds are also purchasing park models, partly to accommodate travelers who don't have an RV and partly to diversify their business base so that they are not solely dependent on renting sites to RV and tent campers.

"We have guests who stay in our park models for a week at a time," said Dave Kozy, a regional vice president of Equity LifeStyle Properties, citing the company's Tranquil Timbers Resort in Door County, Wisconsin as a case in point.

Some travelers also prefer renting a park model in a campground or RV resort to staying in a hotel. "People like a park model over a hotel room because it's more like renting a home," said Jeff Dixon, sales manager for Sun n Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Florida. "It's your own little place. You don't have anybody above you or below you. It's very appealing."

"With a park model, everything's right there," said Tammy Gomez, manager of Beach Comber Camping Resort in Cape May, New Jersey. "You have the full kitchen, the full bath. It's bigger than a motel room. You have a private room for the kids and a private room for the parents or a loft. Everything's right there. You can cook if you need to so you don't have to go out to dinner as much. Yet you have the feel of camping because you're in a wooded area. We have outdoor grills that come with our units, so you can smell the wood burning and the hot dogs and it gives you that back to nature feel."

Craig Sherman and his wife, Sandy, of Newcastle, Indiana, have a 32-foot travel trailer. But when they visit Tropical Palms FunResort in Kissimmee, Florida in the wintertime, they rent park models for their daughter and her children and have family reunions there. "Our RV is too small for all of us, so we rent two park models and there's plenty of room for everybody," Sandy Sherman said.

Many parks, in fact, have found that demand for park models is so strong that they can sell them to consumers who want to use them as affordable weekend retreats or seasonal vacation cottages. Most park models are in the high $30,000 range, while annual campsite leases vary between $1,500 and $8,000 per year, depending on location. Sun n Fun, Snug Harbor, Tropical Palms and many other parks affiliated with the national campground and RV resort chains offer park models both for sale and for rent.

And parks that offer these units say they have no trouble renting them out, including Rustic Inn, a new resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with 75 park model cabins that just opened in May. "They're starting to fill up fast," said Karleigh Sullivan, the resort's front office manager.

Other resorts that already have park models are adding more, including Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville, Texas, which is adding 40 park models this summer and fall. "We call them cottages in the hills," said park owner Don Temple, adding, "We had 150 inquiries as soon as we put them on our website."

Some campground membership clubs also feature park model rentals as part of their product offering, including the Thousand Trails Getaway Club, which is affiliated with Equity LifeStyle Resorts. The club offers members the ability to enjoy a campground setting with all of the luxury and convenience of home, including satellite TV, fully stocked kitchens and an outdoor area designed for a family barbecue.

For more information about the increasing use of park models in campgrounds and RV resorts across the country, visit the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) website at www.rptia.com.

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