Make us your home page

RV parks's business slows in downturn

Harold Polglaze says he has been pinching pennies since his wife died in 2005.

Now he lives in an RV at Cody's Catfish Pond RV Park in Weeki Wachee.

He's one of many who — even in a down economy — have kept business going in the area's campgrounds and recreational vehicle parks.

Their stories vary greatly. Some, like Polglaze, have left homeownership and are living frugally.

He saw his mortgage rise from $800 to $1,200 a month. When he couldn't make payments, he said, he gave his house back.

"I was quite worried that they would come after me," he said about the foreclosure.

Others are snowbirds who, despite shrinking retirement accounts, are determined to spend the winter the way they always have — in the Florida sunshine.

"I've lost a lot of money," said Indiana native Chester Little.

Little and his wife have been spending winters in Brooksville's Clover Leaf Forest for the past 10 years.

"The only thing that might have prevented us from coming was $4-a-gallon gas," he said. "If it's going to cost more, we do less."

Though some RV and campground residents have lost jobs or been hurt by plunging retirement funds, many were already living close to the bone.

RV residents Gayle and Jim Blandford packed up and moved from Pittsburgh to Weeki Wachee last fall.

She was a food service director at a local university; he was a truck driver. They had planned to make the change for a long time.

"We found this (park) at the last minute and came down here," Gayle said. "We've been happy ever since."

"We saved a lot," said Jim. "We're in the process of setting up a Web store."

Their business,, is just getting under way. They have learned Web design by doing a lot of reading.

"It's a lot of work," he said. "If all goes well, hopefully we can be self-employed and not have to worry about the job market."

The economy is tough, but local RV parks and campgrounds are holding their own.

"Business seems to be on track and where we were last year," said Bobby Cornwell, executive director of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

"They may still be coming, but they might not be spending as much in stores and on other activities," he added.

Repeat business has been particularly strong for some parks.

"We're full because all our Northerners are here," said Stormy Morse, manager at Camper's Holiday Travel Park on Culbreath Road south of Brooksville.

At the high-end Chassa Oaks RV Resort in Homosassa, sales initially seemed to hold steady when the housing market crashed.

"It's a unique market that isn't following the traditional real estate curve," Jim Eyster said in January.

But by late February, Eyster said, sales at the park were agonizingly slow. He had sold only two lots in the beginning of 2009.

Jim Trefz purchased Belle Parc in Brooksville a year ago. He aims to create a vacation resort, and increased rates to help pay for his improvements.

"My price went from $275 a month to $400," Trefz said. "I was about half filled during my first year with very little advertising."

Trefz said he had 97 new customers this season.

Jeff Guzlas, owner of Cody's Catfish Pond RV Park, decided to keep rates the same.

"I didn't raise my rates in two years, and I'm not raising them this year," he said.

But he has made other changes.

"I'm trying to go off the grid a little," said Guzlas. His park has a chicken coop to provide fresh eggs, and he recently planted a community garden.

He's working on a pet-friendly shelter and puts most of what the park makes back into it.

"RV parks just kind of go along," he said. "You have to eat and you have to live somewhere. If your house is foreclosed on, you can live here."

RV parks's business slows in downturn 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 12:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]