Some of the solar panels installed at Buttonwood Campground, Mexico, Pa.

Buttonwood Campground in central Pennsylvania’s scenic Juniata River Valley is investing more than $550,000 in improvements this year.

But while children are bound to appreciate the park’s new jumping pillow, laser tag and a pedal cart track, parents will be intrigued by the campground’s investments in solar panels, which are being used to produce both hot water and electricity, according to a news release.

“We think we can reduce our propane costs by 80% by using solar panels to heat hot water for the rest room sinks, showers and washers in our main bath house,” said park co-owner Dennis McFarland.

The park has also installed an 18-kilowatt solar electric system, which will supply about 10% of its annual electricity needs. The system, installed by Greenspring Energy of Timonium, Md., includes 90 photovoltaic panels, which are 10 feet wide and 150 feet in length.

“We think we may be the first campground in Pennsylvania to install photovoltaic panels to produce both electricity and hot water,” McFarland said.

That may be the case now, but probably won’t be for long.

Private campgrounds across the country are increasingly making investments in a solar and wind power, as well as other energy, water and natural resource saving programs.

Some parks are making green investments on their own initiative, while others are doing so with active encouragement from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Larkspur, Colo., which launched a green parks initiative three years ago called “Plan-it Green,” said Linda Profaizer, the association’s president and CEO.

“Industry research shows that consumers like to go to parks that are environmentally friendly, which is an additional benefit to parks that invest in green practices,” she said.

Profaizer added that the association has launched a new program with the Woodall’s North American Campground Directory that recognizes parks that adopt at least nine of 18 green initiatives with a “Green Friendly” icon next to their park listings on the GoCampingAmerica.com and Woodalls.com travel planning websites as well as the 2011 print edition of the Woodall’s campground directory.