Campground operators are stepping up in their investments in picnic tables, barbecue grills, fire rings and even bicycle racks, according to vendors that specialize in selling these items to campgrounds.

“Last year was real slow. This year, people seem to be buying,” said Norman Boucher, co- owner of LCN Outdoors in Windsor, Conn. “We’re selling more grills and picnic tables.”

LCN is also seeing a stronger response to its product catalog. “We’ve gotten calls from Utah and South Dakota. We’re getting a good response. We’ve had lots of new customers asking questions,” Boucher said.

Frosty Kimbrough of Morristown, Tenn.-based Frosty’s Park Equipment, is also seeing stepped up demand. “I don’t know where they’re coming from, but we’re definitely tickled to death,” Kimbrough said. “Business is definitely up quite a bit from last year.”

Kimbrough said he is seeing increased demand across his product line, which includes picnic table frames, barbecue rings, fire rings and fireproof containers.

“It’s pretty busy here,” said Chuck Gerber of Gerber Manufacturing Ltd. in Madison, Wis., adding his first quarter sales are up compared to last year. “It seems like people have been buying more at the campground conventions,” he said.

Other companies that supply picnic tables, grills, fire rings and related supplies are also reporting increased demand, including Jamestown, N.Y.-based Jamestown Advanced Products and Chadwick Mfg. Ltd. in Chadwick, Ill.

In addition to signaling a continued strengthening of the campground business, the increased sales of campground furniture products is good news for American manufacturing, since several of the companies that sell these products also do their own manufacturing.

Jamestown Advanced Products, for example, is actually a metal manufacturing plant. Most of the company’s 80 employees are involved in manufacturing fire rings, grills, picnic tables, bike racks and even power outlets.

Ortonville, Mich.-based Campfire Grill LLC, Chadwick Mfg., Frosty’s Park Equipment, Madison, Wis.-based Gerber Manufacturing, and Cherokee, Iowa-based R. J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc. also manufacture their own products.

But while the designs of picnic tables, grills and fire rings stay pretty much the same from year to year, some companies are introducing new products.

Campfire Grill, for example, has introduced a new product called a Pot Dangler, which can be used to facilitate Dutch Oven cooking over an open fire, said company President Jeff Walker.

“We’re hoping to get campgrounds interested in carrying the Pot Dangler in their stores,” Walker said, adding that his company sees the campground business as an important market segment.

“We’re expanding our footprint in the campground business,” Walker said, adding that smaller cooking products like the Pot Dangler are perfect retail items for campground stores that have limited shelf space.

Jamestown Advanced Products, for its part, has also introduced a new smoker grill product with heavy-duty construction, while R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. has introduced a new ADA-compliant charcoal grill that meets the federal guidelines for wheelchair accessibility and operability.

R.J. Thomas, which manufacturers its products using the Pilot Rock brand name, is also producing new bench designs as well as bear-proof trash receptacles and bike racks, said Bob Simonsen, the company’s marketing manager.

Gerber Manufacturing, for its part, has also introduced a new round fire ring.

But while wooden picnic tables are still the most popular choice for campgrounds, manufacturers say they are seeing steady growth in sales of picnic tables that are made using recycled plastic.

While picnic tables made with recycled plastic are more expensive than traditional wooden tables, they are longer lasting, require less maintenance and come in a variety of colors, according to the companies that sell these products.

“A lot depends on usage and location,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for Jamestown Advanced Products. “If you’re near salt water, the tables will see more effects than if you’re not near salt water.”

Simonsen of R.J. Thomas said his company now offers 10 different colors of picnic tables with recycled plastic, including tables with recycled plastic frames. “There’s not a lot of color choices with wood,” he said.

Gerber of Gerber Manufacturing also noted that plastic tables require far less maintenance and they hold up better against accidents, such as spilled wine.