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Published July 24, 2010, 12:00 AM

Park trailers becoming popular option for vacation homes

Growing numbers of area residents are turning to recreational park trailers as affordable vacation homes, according to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

Growing numbers of area residents are turning to recreational park trailers as affordable vacation homes, according to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association.

The 400-square-foot factory-built cottages with full-size bathrooms and kitchen appliances are an attractive option for people who want the lake home experience without the expense, dealers say.

Recreational park trailers sell for about $42,000 on average, said Bill Garpow, Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association executive director.

They’re usually placed in campgrounds where lots are leased on a seasonal or yearly basis, he said. Site rentals typically range from $1,500 to $6,000 a year, Garpow said.

Donna Graffis, who owns Larry’s RV Sales & Service in Moorhead with her husband, Larry, said customers are looking for comfort, affordability and a model that looks nice, will last a long time and will provide plenty of storage.

“These are becoming not only a weekend getaway, but a lot of people, if they’re retired, they’ll live in it in the summertime, and then in the fall, they’ll truck to Arizona and have something there,” Graffis said.

Gerald Wieler of Cavalier, N.D., likes to park his recreational park trailer on a golf course and RV resort. It’s something he’s done for the past seven or eight years, he said.

“We enjoy the time,” Wieler said. “We do a lot of golfing; we have family that comes down and spends weekends with us. It’s basically relaxing time.”

McLaughlin’s RV & Marine in Fargo has seen an increase in recreational park trailer sales because people aren’t towing as much and are instead looking for destination trailers they can park out at the lake, said Mike Boe, sales manager.

“The only thing that sometimes limits it is the availability of park space,” he said. “As long as there’s room to put them, I think you’re going to keep seeing an increase. People really enjoy camping that way.”

While the numbers of trailers shipped from factories to dealers have been declining nationwide in recent years, factory shipments to North Dakota have grown.

Shipments of the most trailers from factories to dealers were in 2005 and 2006, when about 10,000 trailers were shipped each year nationwide.

Since then, the industry has seen a steady decline with 9,000 trailers shipped in 2007, 6,900 trailers shipped in 2008 and 4,400 trailers shipped in 2009.

However, factory shipments to North Dakota grew from 22 in 2006 and 2007 to 36 in 2008, the last year for which the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association had data available.

The number of trailers shipped to Minnesota peaked in 2004 with 626 shipments. In 2008, there were 248 shipments.

Even so, Minnesota was still among the states with the most shipments.

Arizona led the nation in 2008 with 1,141 shipments.

Those numbers do not include Federal Emergency Management Agency shipments.

“It’s a very rapidly growing segment, although the last couple of years we’ve been a little bit stymied because our customer base has been hit rather hard,” Garpow said. “Our market has diminished, but it’s coming back.”

Typical units are 12 feet wide, 32 or 33 feet long, and weigh around 15,000-16,000 pounds. They have skirting, an axle and two or three wheels and are generally moved by professional hauling companies, Garpow said.

They have a bedroom, full-sized bathroom, small kitchen with full-sized appliances and a family room/dining room.

Some models also come with a loft area. They are also plumbed like a home, so they do not have holding tanks.

Customers range from young couples with children to parents with grown children to grandparents, Graffis said.

“What better way to enjoy some quality family time to build memories with your family,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526