New People Camping in California's Campgrounds

As public and privately owned campgrounds offer more park model cabins as rental units, they’re making the camping experience accessible to people who have never camped before

Last year, campgrounds affiliated with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) supplemented their RV and tent sites with 317 luxury park model cabins, which it markets as Kamping Lodges.

That’s on top of 200 park models that KOA campgrounds purchased in 2009.

So what’s KOA’s conclusion?

“We need more cabins,” said Mike Atkinson, KOA’s director of lodging.

KOA’s lodge occupancies are running 20 percent or more ahead of last year’s figures. “This means we’re getting new people, people who might not otherwise come to a campground,” Atkinson said.

Indeed, KOA and other campground operators in California and across the country have discovered that there is strong demand for cabin accommodations with kitchens and full size bathrooms.

In California, six independently owned and operated campgrounds from San Diego to Susanville have invested in new park model cabins this year. They include:

Some government run campgrounds have also recently installed park model cabins, again to make parks more accessible to people who don’t have a tent or RV.

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve near San Diego installed 10 park model cabins earlier this year, including seven on the lakeshore and three floating park models that people can use like a houseboat.

“They are already 93 percent booked for the next six months,” said Melissa McChesney, a public information officer for Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which operates the 300-site campground.

McChesney said the campground is self-funded by user fees, and that the cabins pay for themselves at 50 percent occupancy, so the fact that they are full most of the time means the cabins are generating revenue that can be used for other campground improvements that enhance the guest experience. Lakefront cabins start at $100 and go up to $145 for floating park model cabins.

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