The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) February decision to pursue expanded square footage limits for towable RVs was – predictably – a focus of discussion among state campground association representatives and National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) leaders attending the 20th annual ARVC National Issues Conference. The conference convened May 1-2 at Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Md., and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The controversial measure to expand the size of towable RVs had already drawn heat from the Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which claims that expanding towable RV dimensions will blur the line between over-the-road RVs and park models that typically are more sedentary once sited.

RVIA Director of Government Affairs Matt Wald set the tone at the opening issue discussion when he presented the RVIA proposal to expand the square footage limits for fifth-wheels and travel trailers on the premise that the proliferation of large slideouts in those units justifies raising current square footage limits.

“The park representatives and the RVIA executive engaged in a spirited discussion with RVIA building its case on meeting consumer demand for larger units and the park industry representatives pointing out both the potential difficulties with local zoning and other regulatory officials and with accommodating ever larger RVs in campgrounds,” reports David Gorin, a Washington-based public affairs consultant whose firm, King & Gorin, developed ARVC’s National Issues Conference.

Bringing a somewhat different message to the conference, Richard Dolesh, director of public policy for the National Parks & Recreation Association, reviewed trends in outdoor recreation. On a positive note, Dolesh cited a growing interest in human-powered recreation that provides considerably more physical exertion than motorized pursuits. On the not-so-positive side of the scales, he pointed to a decline in the availability of open spaces and to continuing budgetary stress on public lands as more and more government agencies turn to fees to pay for the upkeep of properties.

Dolesh, meanwhile, suggested that a growing interest in recreation and physical fitness may help revitalize public lands.

Among the other conference highlights:

  • American Recreation Coalition President Derrick Crandall announced a plan to launch GO USA – Get Out USA – a program that might do for outdoor recreation in general what the Go RVing program has done for RV sales. The goal of the GO USA program would be to reverse the declining interest in outdoor recreation among younger people.
  • John Satagaj, president of the Small Business Legislative Council, warned of the potential dangers of congressional activity to address the tax gap that is frequently placed on the doorstep of small business.
  • Rick Webster, vice president of government affairs for the Travel Industry Association of America, and Grant Miller, senior vice president, clubs, for Affinity Group Inc., addressed the great potential for expanding the camping market by attracting and serving more international visitors to the U.S.

Also part of the program was recognizing U.S. Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), an active long-time RVer, as the association’s first “Congressional RVer of the Year.” In accepting the award, Cardoza related some of his most memorable RVing moments. At the same time, he’s agreed to work with ARVC to identify other influential individuals around the capital who are candidates for a bipartisan “Washington DC RV Club.”

ARVC, in addition, presented its annual Public Service Award to Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), chairman of the House Resources Committee and a long-term advocate of recreation and public lands. The award was presented by ARVC Public Affairs Chairman Mark Anderson of Camp Chatauqua, Stow, N.Y., and ARVC President Linda Profaizer. Rahall was cited for his chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee on which he is widely perceived as providing “balanced, focused and exceptional” leadership to federal public land agencies.