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Brian Schaper hadn’t planned much for Blue Lake Campground when he bought it four years ago, beyond removing the mobile homes to focus on recreational vehicle camping.
According to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Business Weekly, the 65-acre wooded campground near Churubusco, Ind., has 1,500 feet of lakefront and now specializes in RV and tent-site rental. It operates only six months year, from April 15 through Oct. 15.
The same year Schaper was tearing dated utility lines out of the campground’s former five-acre section for mobile homes, the recreational vehicle industry saw a surge in sales of park model RVs, which are towable but designed to stay in one location. That gave the local entrepreneur an idea.
He’s now investing $300,000 to develop park model RV areas for Blue Lake Campground and for Indian Springs campground a few miles north of Fort Wayne. Eventually, there will be at least 120 park model lots at Blue Lake and 30 at Indian Springs.
“It think that especially as the price of lake property continues to escalate, more and more people are going to look at this as an affordable alternative to having a lake cottage or home,” said Schaper, who also sells real estate for Metro Realty in Fort Wayne.
“They’re really affordable for snowbirds,” he said. “I know of people who have RVs here and in another state and are flying back and forth. It’s catching on. It is something I think a lot of people are interested in, and in the next 10 years or so, I think a lot of people will have them.”
Schaper set up a few recreational park trailers at the campgrounds and began renting them to visitors three years ago to promote the concept.
The 400-square-foot park model at Blue Lake rents for $85 a night or $500 a week. With wooden furnishings, big bay windows and an overhead loft large enough for children to nap in, it is like an efficiency apartment with a lodge look.
Schaper plans to begin selling park model RVs after he has the special areas developed for them. Engineering work has started for the necessary site preparation, and he hopes to have at least a few of the lots available next summer.
The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association reported recreational vehicle manufacturers shipped 9,937 park-model RVs in 2005, up 8% from 9,186 the prior year.
That growth is good for the area’s economy, because northern Indiana plants make about half of the park models the industry ships each year.
Rising prices of gas and lakefront property have contributed to recent sales increases for park models.
Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), noted that the industry has been doing more to promote them.
“The campground is kind of like a mini-resort that provides all kinds of features and benefits to the tenants,” he said. “You can wind up with a place at the beach or with easy commuting distance to the ocean or gulf or wherever, that generally would be an extremely expensive investment.”
Schaper predicts rising area prices for lakefront property will encourage many consumers who love the lake life to consider park model RVs with campground lot rentals, especially as they near retirement.