On the eve of the InSites Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo in Nashville, Tenn., the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) informed the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) that it would cease being a fully affiliated state starting in 2009.
This means that TACO will stop collecting ARVC dues on behalf of all of its membership and remitting it to ARVC. Instead, its 386 members – who up to now were automatic ARVC members each year they renewed their TACO dues – will be free to pay their ARVC dues separately from their TACO dues. Or not.
The TACO members represent nearly 10% of the entire ARVC membership of some 4,000 private campgrounds across the U.S.
The matter engendered several closed-door discussions between TACO and ARVC leaders before the convention and became a hot button issue during several business meetings at the convention.
TACO and ARVC agreed not to discuss the matter publicly until there is a consensus between the two parties. Based on discussions at the recent meetings of state campground executives, other states are watching the issue closely and some are considering following suit, according to Debbie Sipe, executive director of CalARVC.
“Depending upon how ARVC responds to Texas will definitely influence the other states in where they are on this,” Sipe told Woodall’s Campground Management.
Decision Not Total Surprise
Sipe and others suspected the Texas decision was pending.
“There had been lots of discussion about it when ARVC announced (in 2007) that it was going to increase dues in 2009,” she said. The $50 hike puts dues on a sliding scale between $135 and $458, based on size of campground.
While ARVC sets the rates, they’re not the ones who have to communicate the rate increase, sell its value and do all the work to press for payment, Sipe noted.
“It’s a struggle” for some states, she said. “At the same time, ARVC’s hands are tied by what the states are willing to do. There are some real good points and some conflicted points on how the states make that work.
“The bigger the state you are, the easier it is to provide these benefits on your own. Smaller states will always have to look to ARVC to provide the majority of benefits.”
The issue became a delicate matter for Terry Munoz, TACO president, who was campaigning for a seat on the national ARVC board from Region 5. However, he made it clear that his campground, Thousand Trails Lake Conroe in Willis, Texas, will be reupping its membership in ARVC, even if his state went from a “fully affiliated” state to a “cooperating” state.
ARVC bylaws do not require directors come from fully affiliated states, just that they are dues-paying ARVC members.
Munoz was subsequently elected to the Region 5 seat, ousting incumbent Mary Arlington of Kansas in a close election. It was the only contested seat among the six up for election.
ARVC Response
ARVC Chairman Mark Anderson deferred comment on the matter, other than to tell WCM that he believes “a great percentage of their (TACO) members will join,” making the matter moot.
ARVC President and CEO Linda Profaizer told WCM that the matter has not been totally resolved. She said she got the impression “through our discussions with TACO, they don’t want to drop out of the association. They still want to be full members.”
She understood the TACO decision was designed to make up for a budget shortfall, and that the move to “cooperating” status might be a “one-year deal.”
“I wouldn’t see why they wouldn’t want to (be full members). The benefits are there, if they want to be on the gocampingamerica website, they definitely will come.”
Brian Schaeffer, TACO executive director, who was directed by his board to inform ARVC of the membership shift, was equally optimistic.
He said the joint dues collection “will work out just fine. I don’t regard any of this being anything but good for the industry.”
But ARVC members were taken back just the same. TACO has been a steady supporter of ARVC, dating back to the days of its predecessor, the National Campground Owners Association, and played a key role in funding the newly formed ARVC.
ARVC bylaws created two tiers of membership, allowing states to participate in a “cooperating” status as a stair step to affiliated or full membership. And Texas is not the first state to amend its ARVC membership. Several states pulled out of ARVC about 10 years ago over an ARVC decision to endorse one insurance company over another. Over the 40-plus years of NCOA/ARVC, states have pulled out and returned for a variety of issues.
How this will affect TACO members’ participation in various ARVC programs and whether other state associations will follow suit is unclear.
According to an industry source close to the matter, TACO members received their regular membership billing over the summer, but it was merely the TACO portion with a statement that TACO did not increase their dues for the coming year. The statement said TACO was not raising its dues for the coming year, but also noted in fine print that ARVC membership dues was not a part of the billing.
TACO members will receive a separate bill in December from TACO for their ARVC dues.