Summer Cottage

For Growing Numbers of Americans, the “Summer Cottage” is a “Park Model” at an RV Resort

It’s already past the 100-degree mark in Phoenix, where Mike McConville works as a self-employed cabinetmaker.

But triple digit heat is of little concern to McConville and his family. When the weather gets hot, the McConvilles head up to Munds Park, an RV resort near Flagstaff where they own a 400-square foot recreational park trailer or park model.

It’s our home away from home, and it’s a lot cooler up there, said McConville, 57, who purchased his park model last year.

Marion Steinbrenner is similarly unconcerned with the approach of summer. After spending the winter at an RV resort in Florida, she’ll be spending the next few months at Peters Pond RV Resort on Cape Cod, where she owns a park model.

Still relatively unknown to most consumers, recreational park trailers or park models are 400-square foot movable resort cottages that are designed exclusively for part-time recreational use.

Typically upscale in appearance, they often include hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts as well as cherry, oak or maple cabinetry. They also are very affordable, with prices starting in the $30,000 range.

And because park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they can be set up on leased or purchased sites in campgrounds and RV parks and used as weekend retreats or seasonal vacation dwellings. That’s precisely what is happening at many RV resorts across the country.

Munds Park near Flagstaff has sold more than 200 park models during the past two years. We have 41 lots left, but they’re going fast, said Cindi Eagleton, the park’s manager. Munds Park leases its campsites for $2,700 per season, which runs from April until November.

Eagleton said the people who purchase park models at Munds Resort are all over the map, demographically. A lot of them have grandkids and they like that this park is open to kids, she said. But we’re also seeing a lot of younger people because it’s affordable. That’s a big change from years past.

Demand for affordable vacation retreat cottages is so strong that many campgrounds and RV resorts are converting existing campsites for park model use or are adding new sections to accommodate park model owners and renters. While parks making these additions are too numerous to mention here, they are located in vacation destinations all over the country. They include:

  • Guadalupe River RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas: This resort in the Texas Hill Country is adding 40 park models to its resort this year, which already 35 parks models, some of which are available for rent while others are privately owned. “We had 150 inquiries as soon as we put them on our website,said park owner Don Temple. Most of these folks are families in their 40s and 50s. They are looking for a nice vacation home on the river and don’t want to spend their life’s savings to do so.
  • Camp Holiday, Boulder Junction, Wisconsin: This RV resort in northern Wisconsin has designated an entire section for park model owners. We don’t have it filled with park models yet, but we have the space, said Cathy Schneider, one of the park’s owners. The people who own park models are a good blend of people. We have retired people. But most of our seasonal people are still working. A lot of them live within a two-hour radius of here. They can come every weekend or spend their vacation time here.
  • Birchwood Resort, Kabetogama, Minn.: This resort, located 20 miles southeast of International Falls next to Voyageurs National Park, just started renting sites for park model use this year. The sites can be rented for $3,250 to $4,000 for the entire summer. I like the look of park models, said park owner Mark Krupowicz. They’re attractive. They’re like cabins
  • Castle RV Park, Castle Rock, Colo.: This 370-acre park, located in a forested location in the mountains between Denver and Colorado Springs, is developing a new section that will accommodate about 200 cabin-style park models. The park model cabins will range from the high $30,000 to about $80,000, while the monthly lease fee will be $650, said Ian Steyn, the park’s developer.
  • Of Course RV Resort, Red Lodge, Mont.: This 190-acre park, which is being built around an 18-hole golf course, is located near Yellowstone National Park. Developer Jeanne Rizzotto is selling 99-year leases on 500 sites at the park, which will be used to accommodate park models as well as towable and motorized RVs. Rizzotto is also planning to develop similar resorts in Arizona and Colorado.

For more information on parks that may have park models for sale, check with Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Leisure Systems Inc., parent company of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park chain, Salt Springs, Fla.-based Elite Resorts of America as well as Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties and Queensbury, N.Y.-based Morgan RV Resorts, which both own numerous parks with park models across the country. Parks with park models can also be located by running a Google search.

For more information about the growth of the park model business, please contact William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) at (770) 251-2672 or visit the association’s website at www.rptia.com.

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steve flattem - June 25, 2008 Reply

I am in the process of selling my 2200sq ft suburban split level house and buying/moving into a park model trailer. My wife died recently and since I can’t afford our house, I am making a new beginning in life and the park model made most sense to me. The entire process is daunting, and at the same time exciting.

I have the land, septic, electric and phone/DSL are installed, the water well goes in next week. I am moving from southern MN to NW WI…the only drawback is the mosquitos will be larger

I moderate an online group (small homes on eons.com) and share many of ideas from this site, to the extent that some readers are considering purchasing based on articles published.

thank you

Steve

Kent - June 25, 2008 Reply

Thanks Steve for your kind words and for sharing the information with your readers.

Keep us posted on your experience of downsizing. Sounds like you are well on your way. What a challenge!

Kent

California home improvements - June 25, 2008 Reply

interesting design.

Debra Prince - July 22, 2008 Reply

I read your article where someone posted that park models are not insulated like homes. We build our park models and cabins with the same required insulation for a home. Our units are built so tight and insulated with r19 insulation in the roof and floor and r13 in the sidewalls and we go up to r30 for areas like New Mexico, Alaska. Montana, etc. Not all park models are built the same, but we put pride, hard work, and personal care in each and every unit because we want our units to last you 30 plus years down the road. Thanks, Debra

Debra Prince - July 22, 2008 Reply

Park Models Mfg. not only insulate their units well, they also use double pane thermal windows, on demand water heaters if the customer prefers it over a 20 gallon water heater, and other amenities for going green. Thanks again, Debra.

Nancy Turner - February 21, 2010 Reply

Am selling my way-too-big home and buying in 2 days a used park model on Lake LBJ here in the Hill Country of Texas. I’m retired and tired of maintenance on a large home with acreage; from now on I’ll be living in my Park Model with loft and covered parking and deck in a gated adult community and spending my time fishing, reading, and just enjoying life and NOT maintaining land or a big house, and my utility bills should shrink. And no more $6000+ a year property taxes. I’m tired of slaving to maintain a home.

    Steve - November 12, 2012 Reply

    Nancy, Please share your info for lake lbj area adult community for park model homes. My wife and I currently live in Austin, and are growing tired of the growth, and congestion. Thanks, Steve

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