Public, Private Parks Benefitting from Influx of Cash

ben quiggle Jul 09, 2021
Campground with a fire

The outdoor hospitality industry is seeing an influx of cash that is unprecedented.

Investment groups, real estate developers and private individuals are looking at ways they can get involved. Why shouldn’t they be? The industry is booming right now.

Firms like Blue Water DevelopmentThe Jenkins OrganizationNorthgate ResortsRVC Outdoors and more are all investing heavily by building and buying parks across North America.

Some of these groups, like Blue Water and The Jenkins Organization, were firms that focused on other industries, like hotel development and storage facilities, before they realized the money they could be making in the outdoor hospitality industry.

Other investors are getting involved by combining forces with other investors. That is the case for a newly announced Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Parachute, Colo., which is set to open next year. The Parachute location is being developed by investment group High Mesa Partners LLC that includes J. Allen Kosowsky, a member of the THOR board of directors.

The infusion of all this money is pushing the envelope of what an RV park, campground or glamping resort offers when it comes to amenities and lodging units.

That pressure is even being felt at the state park level, with a slew of states announcing large investments in their state park systems. They are working to repair trails, campgrounds and other areas as they take advantage of the focus on outdoor recreation to repair and upgrade facilities that haven’t been touched in decades.

Bolstered by the Great American Outdoors Act that was passed last year, state governments are utilizing grant funds and even state cash to encourage more people to visit state parks.

Some of the recent announcements:

These are just a few of the announcements that have been made public over the past year.

The Pew Institute has researched the recent trend in state’s spending money on state parks. The report notes that the influx of federal cash from the Great American Outdoors Act has made it easier for state park officials to approach legislative officials and ask for more money.

“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” said Lewis Ledford, who heads the North Carolina-based National Association of State Park Directors. “State parks continue to be very much in demand and virtually all of the states are in a much more favorable light for capital funding considerations.”

The industry is even seeing more state parks exploring private/public partnerships with companies like Tentrr. Tentrr has recently launched partnerships with a few state park systems that are designed to integrate glamping accommodations.

State park systems are also adding more unique accommodation units, like yurts and park model RVs, as they work to meet the demand for such accommodation units from the public.

Some are even installing amenities like large inflatable water parks and zip line courses.

The trend has even bled down to the local level, with county officials across the country investing in either building or upgrading campgrounds as a way to bring in more revenue.

In May, San Diego County, Calif., opened up a new park that includes 10 yurts.

For private park owners, the fact that public dollars are being spent to upgrade amenities and lodging units at public parks in ways that may be difficult for many smaller parks to compete with is probably causing heartburn for some.

Many industry officials, however, note that improved state and national parks help to drive traffic to the areas they are located in and, in turn, also drive traffic to the private parks that are located nearby.

The influx of cash that the industry is seeing right now is benefitting everyone and for many public parks, the extra cash comes at a critical time. Many are dealing with another record year, fewer staff members and amenities that are already strained.

Private park owners are also facing many of the same challenges as they look to meet the demands of a wave of new campers.  

As an industry, hopefully, the influx of cash allows every park to continue finding success for decades to come. The sense is the outdoor hospitality industry is at a critical turning point as it works to ensure it can keep the good times rolling well into the future.