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Single Women Show Growing Interest in Park Model Lifestyle

By Jeff Crider, Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association

Newnan, GA. Campground owners across the USA are noticing a subtle change in the demographic of their guests who buy or rent recreational park trailers or park models: Single women of all ages are becoming more frequent customers.

Park models are 400-square foot movable resort cottages designed exclusively for part-time recreational use. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include bay windows and lofts as well as walnut, oak or maple cabinetry, and they retail for anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000. Lease costs at RV parks range from $1,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on location.

Convenient, Affordable, Secure

The trend is very apparent at Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, where 70% of the 100 seasonal sites are park models. "Fourteen percent of our park model customers who have seasonal sites are women camping by themselves," says owner David Berg. "and many younger singles living in nearby Massachusetts drive up for the weekend."

The sense of security and ease of camping in a park model are the big draw for these units, says Betty Berger of Holliston, Massachusetts, a longtime camper at Red Apple, who used to camp in a travel trailer but bought a pre-owned park model two seasons ago. She goes up to Red Apple on the weekends to rest and relax from her job at a financial advisory firm.

"It has more conveniences than a travel trailer has," said Berger. "The old trailer had a dump tank. I don't have to do that anymore, and my park model also has larger appliances and a much larger living area."

Berger added a "Florida room," which doubled the size of the unit and comes in handy when her children visit.

Tim O'Neil, managing partner for the new Lakeside Cabin Resort near Three Oaks Michigan, also notes growing popularity among single women of all ages for his 260-site park model resort located a 90-minute drive from Chicago. He finds that the single women fit into one of three categories: single mothers who want a nice place to take their kids on the weekend or on a vacation; women in their 40s to 60s who enjoy antique shopping, art galleries, and restaurants in the area; and women of all ages who are just looking for a weekend getaway place.

Kirsten Randall Belzer was in that first category when she bought a park model in Lakeside in 2006. She found the park model concept perfect for her and two grade-school age children. "It's like coming to another house and everything is ready," said Randall Belzer, who is a psychotherapist in private practice in Chicago. Randall Belzer has since married but still uses her park model as a weekend getaway.

Barbara Kendall, a portfolio investor in Chicago, heard about Lakeside from a friend with a park model cabin there and decided to investigate. She says she "fell in love with it immediately." She particularly likes the sense of security that goes along with buying into a gated community.

Lynne Oberman, a retired school teacher from Tinley Park, Illinois, was one of the first residents to buy into the Lakeside resort. "At the time I purchased my cabin, there was nothing here. It was a leap of faith," she said. "I was impressed by how much could be gotten into 400 square feet of living space. That was amazing to me." Now in her third summer at Lakeside, she is pleased with her investment. She likes the sense of community and camaraderie as well as the feeling of security.

Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), the nation's largest campground chain, also notes the popularity of its park model cabins among single women. Terry Shade, southeast regional vice president, says, "In a park model, you have all the advantages of a hotel suite but the feeling of peaceful security that you don't get in an urban hotel."

Trinity Lake Resort at Pinewood Cove, located in the Trinity National Forest in northern California, attracts an influx of single women every spring. "It usually happens right after school lets out in June," said Maddy Simmons, store manager. "A lot of grandmothers bring their grandchildren so that kids and their parents can get a vacation break."

That single women are drawn to park model living comes as no surprise to industry officials.

"It's a super idea that makes perfect sense," says William Garpow, executive director of the Newnan Georgia-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).

"From a financial standpoint, given the constraints of a single-parent trying to raise a family, it may be one of the few alternatives to get away and enjoy a break from their daily responsibilities. And, many older women, grandmothers, for example, are looking for a getaway place to enjoy themselves and also a place to invite their grandchildren."

Details: Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association.

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