InSites - March 2013

Best Parks in America Breaks New Ground with New Majority Investor


By David Gorin

First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I created Best Parks in America in 2003 and have owned the intellectual property, the brand and the program since that time. In 2013, Best Parks is breaking new ground. As announced on Feb. 4, I've basically sold Best Parks to long time park owner, real estate investor and entrepreneur Reza Paydar. Reza's plans for Best Parks call for significant expansion of the brand, the establishment of standards and inspections to assure the parks in the system stand behind the brand name, stepped up consumer marketing and advertising, the introduction of a recognition and loyalty program to reward consumers, and a new, warmer and more welcoming website.

I will continue to be the president of Best Parks and look forward to working with Reza and all of the affiliates to continue to grow and expand the Best Parks brand. Congratulations, Reza, on acquiring the Best Parks brand. Together and with the support of the affiliates, there;s no doubt that this brand is taking its place along side the prominent industry brands that have carved out their places among consumers. The Best Parks brand provides a home for consumers seeking the best and most unique guest experiences as they enjoy RVing and outdoor recreation across America.

Thanks to all who have supported and worked cooperatively with Best Parks over the last 10 years. And for those who have sat on the sidelines over the years, if your park can uphold the Best Parks name and brand, we invite you to contact Reza or me to learn more about the brand and how it can improve your park business.

National Parks to Become Ghost Towns?

Budget sequestration - coming Feb. 28? If Congress fails to enact a new federal budget, current law calls for sharp and dramatic cuts in federal spending set to take place on Feb. 28 (or March 1).

On Jan. 25, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis warned top Park Service officials that budget sequestration could lead to widespread closures of park units and other operations reductions.

In a memo to staff, Jarvis said, "We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, resources, and government assets."

Imposition of the anticipated 5% budget cuts (down from 8.2%) would be devastating. "This would be devastating for America's national parks, for the nearly 300 million Americans who visit them, and for the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources the parks were established to protect," said Maureen Finnerty who heads up an organization of retired Park Service officials. "Additionally there will be steep impacts to the private sector – the hundreds of concession businesses operating inside of the parks, the stores operated by cooperating associations in park visitor centers, not to mention the economies of the communities adjacent to parks and entire states that depend so heavily on both tourism and other spending done by the parks."

For all these reasons, let's hope that by the time you read this article, steps would have been taken to avoid sequestration and the devastating impacts that could have on the gateway communities that serve the national parks and on the economy in general.

Writer Questions Parks on Check-Out Times

Just in case you missed this, the editor of RV Traveler newsletter, a weekly newsletter supposedly read by more than 200,000 RVers each week, took RV parks and campgrounds to task for 11 a.m. check-out times. The writer questioned the need for such an early check-out time since parks do not have to replace linens, clean rooms and accomplish other chores typically done in hotels. Why, he questioned, couldn’t parks extend the check-out time to 1 p.m.?

According to the editor Chuck Woodbury, "Letters poured in last week about my essay urging campgrounds to extend their check-out times from a stingy 11 a.m. to later. Most of the readers agreed with my comments, but others, mostly workampers, defended the early check-out time with horror stories about awful campers who left their campsites a mess. Most of their stories, however, had nothing to do with check-out times. "They pulled apart a fence to use for firewood," was one comment.

"Most of these people said that if someone wanted to stay longer, they were usually allowed. They just need to ask. I say that they should not need to ask. One o'clock should be the official time, not 11 a.m.," wrote Woodbury.

"From what I have observed through the years, nearly all campgrounds have campsites available for any early arrivals because 90% of the overnight campers leave early. My guess is that 99.7% of campers leave their space as clean as when they arrived and I don't think RV parks kick us out early because they need time to clean our sites: I think they do it because they have always done it, and nobody bothers to ask "Why?" So I say that unless there is a compelling reason, RV parks should do away with the 11 a.m. check-out time and make it 1 p.m. It's the right thing to do."

Chuck, I can think of several reasons why parks adhere to an 11 a.m. check-out time. First, many parks do a "housecleaning" of a site before the next visitor arrives. Sites need to be blown off, picnic tables and grills need to be cleaned, pedestals and utility connections need to be cleaned and checked, in some cases electric meters need to be read, and landscaping may need to be trimmed and cared for. The larger the park, the longer it can take to be sure each site is prepared and ready for the next guest.

Second, with the expansion of the number of rental units in parks, housekeeping is a bigger job then ever before. To keep staffing requirements at reasonable levels, site and cabin housekeeping may be done by the same crew and the job is bigger than you think.

Third, there are often new guests arriving who are just as eager for an early check in as departing guests might be for late checkouts.

I don't know of any hard and fast rule among park owners that specifies that 11 a.m. check-out is set across the industry. Parks set their own rules based on their own needs and the needs of their guests. As hotels will often allow late check-outs upon request based on incoming check-ins and the hotel's needs to housekeep the rooms, parks too will often allow late check-outs on request.

Park owners out there: I'd be happy to share any messages you might have for Chuck Woodbury on this issue of later check-outs. Feel free to forward comments to me at and I’ll be glad to forward them to Chuck.