David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, wrote the following column for the July issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. He is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

What are they thinking?

While not generally the subject of this column, I can’t resist these comments.

A recent report in the RV Daily Report and in the Woodall’s Campground Management daily described a proposed 71-acre $20 million high-end Class A RV resort to be developed around a lake in Cape Coral, Fla. In the full article linked to these reports, there’s a video of a gentleman wearing a Signature Resort shirt talking about how Class A motorhomes start at $150,000 and go up to $2 million or more – the target audience for this proposed resort.

The irony of the Signature shirt on the video is that the two existing Signature Resorts, one in Naples, Fla., and one in Michigan, were built by Monaco Coach Co. in the 2007 to 2008 period. Monaco had more than $20 million in the Naples resort and probably close to a similar amount in Michigan. Monaco and both resorts wound up in bankruptcy. Monaco was sold off to Navistar and both RV resorts were sold at auction for, I believe, about $8 million each. Today, both are struggling as Class A motorcoach resorts. And you don’t have to look too far around Florida to find other Class A-only resorts in similar situations. Check out Florida Grande in Webster and Golden Palms in Ft. Myers, for example.

I surely don’t have all the answers to all the questions associated with RV resort development, but I just can’t figure out what these developers in Cape Coral are thinking and how they’ve assessed the need and the market. I wish all involved good luck in this project.

Recreation Trails Winning, Scenic Byways in Trouble

As efforts in Congress to pass a surface transportation bill continues, here’s an update on where a couple of important issues related to outdoor recreation and travel stand:

• Recreational trails: The House committee and the Senate committee are in rough agreement on setting aside $85 million per year for the Recreational Trails Program. The office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the lead advocate for the program in the Senate, said the senator “has secured the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program as part of a larger Surface Transportation bill.”

• Scenic byways: The House committee bill would eliminate the program. The House committee would also eliminate funding for the America’s Byways Resource Center. That may not matter because the Obama administration is already closing the center down. The Senate bill would allow the scenic byways program to compete for money from either a Transportation Mobility Program or from transportation enhancements.

The park industry has strongly supported the Scenic Byways program and in fact, ARVC was at the table and played a key role in the creation of the program in the late 1980s.

• Enhancements: The House committee bill would remove the existing $900 million per year set-aside for transportation enhancements, but would allow the program to compete with other programs for money from state highway transportation offices. The Senate bill would maintain guaranteed spending for the program at or about $900 million for fiscal 2013 and 2014.

In the past, transportation enhancement funding provided funds to states and the feds for welcome center enhancements, rest areas, Rails to Trails programs and other ancillary transportation programs.

Military To Get Fed Land Passes

The Obama administration on May 19 announced it has established an annual pass for all active duty military personnel to all federal recreation sites. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass will provide free entrance to National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.

Pool Lifts, ADA and People with Disabilities

The hospitality industries have been engaged in attempting to introduce some rationality in the ADA requirements for pool lifts in pools that serve the public. It appears that as of this writing, the enforcement on the lift requirement has been delayed until at least Jan. 31, 2013, and that the regulations appear likely to be modified to allow both a grandfathering of portable pool lifts purchased prior to the original March 2012 compliance deadline as well as allowing the use of portable lifts under certain circumstances.

While this battle has been front and center in the park industry, there’s another effort to end discrimination and second class treatment of the disabled around the world.

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities has been leading the effort to get the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified in America.

The treaty upholds the American values of nondiscrimination, as well as equal access for all people with disabilities in every area of life. The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will help to protect Americans with Disabilities who travel and work in other nations from discrimination, including disabled American veterans, while assisting to ensure that every American enjoys the same rights outside of America as they do while they are at home.

Ratification of the Convention treaty is supported by more than 150 national and local organizations including Veterans Service Organizations who have joined the disability community in supporting the treaty. These Veterans Service Organizations include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled American Veterans.

This whole ADA and disability discussion has brought to mind several things that park operators might want to keep in mind in the future.

• In 2010, 14,708,000 Americans (or about one in 12, roughly 8%), civilian men and women, aged 21-64 had a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• According to the RV Industry Association, about 8% of U.S. households have an RV.

Every new RV park, every new amenity added to an existing park, every amenity or facility rehabilitated or renovated should be done in a way that will enable the park to fully serve the 8% of those with disabilities. The market is about as large as the number of RVs on the road.

Significant tax credits and deductions are available to help businesses of all sizes offset any costs of ADA compliance.

Happy July 4th To All

It’s a small sample, but I’ve talked to about a dozen RV parks since Monday, Memorial Day. Today’s Wednesday, May 30, and everyone I’ve talked to was extremely positive about Memorial Day business. Even parks in Florida! With that in mind, here’s to a successful summer season to all.