Magic along the Rio Grande

Few can dispute the importance of nature tourism in Texas, especially within the Rio Grande Valley. According to a study conducted by Mathis and Matisoff (2004), Texas is the number one birdwatching state/province in North America, and The Valley is considered the number two birding destination in North America.

Visitors to Santa Ana are often greeted with the raucous cry of the drab brown, scrawny-looking, turkey-like bird called a plain chachalaca, a bird that reaches its northern limits in the Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the  Laguna Madre, South Padre Island acts as the easternmost gateway to the Rio Grande Valley. This four-county area of extreme deep South Texas is, in all actuality, more of a delta than a valley, and its southern border forms the present-day wide, sweeping flatlands of the once mighty Rio Grande River.

The unique climate in South Texas attracts nature aficionados from all over the nation and the world, especially for birding, butterfly watching, exploring unique plants, Texas wildlife, and more. A vast majority of Texas birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, reptiles, and other mammals inhabit the wildlife of South Texas—making it a premier spot to observe nature in its natural habitat.

The Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Each year, birders come to The Valley to see bird species they can’t find anyplace else in the country—from the green jay, black-bellied whistling ducks, and the buff-bellied hummingbird to the great kiskadee, roseate spoonbill, and the Altamira oriole.

The Rio Grande Valley nature scene is filled with many wildlife hot spots including three national wildlife refuges—Santa Ana, Laguna Atascosa, and Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Step into a rare tropical world at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Spanish moss drips from trees. Noisy Chachalacas welcome the morning dawn. A malachite butterfly flits from the shadows. The wildlife clientele is truly international here along the most southern stretch of the Rio Grande.

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the reddish egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Santa Ana, subtropical, Gulf Coast, Great Plains, and Chihuahuan Desert meet. You are entering the 2,088-acre home of more than 500 species of birds, half of all butterfly species found in North America, and such rarities as the indigo snake and the Altamira oriole.  Established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds, Santa Ana provides a glimpse into a world that has vanished from 95 percent of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Address: 3325 Green Jay Road, Alamo, TX   78516

Phone: (956) 784-7500

Website: fws.gov/southwest/refuges

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

On the most southern tip of Texas, along the shores of the Laguna Madre, dense patches of thorny brush rise among unique wind-blown clay dunes called “lomas.” Thorn forest intermingles with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats, and beaches.

At Laguna Atascosa, tropical and temperate zones overlap, the endangered ocelot silently hunts within the brushlands, aplomado falcons soar above the grasslands, and nearly half of all the bird species found in the continental United States rest, feed, nest, and migrate.

Laguna Atascosa has two driving loops and five nature viewing trails that can be walked, biked, or hiked. Additionally, the “Alligator Pond,” several resacas, and a portion of the Laguna Madre Bay fall within the refuge’s boundary.

Address: 22817 Ocelot Road, Los Fresnos, TX   78566

Phone: (956) 748-3607

Website: fws.gov/southwest/refuges

Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Salineño Birder’s Colony (deserted in summer), only about 100 yards above the Rio Grande, welcomes birders to visit the feeders; this is usually the best bet for finding three species of orioles--Altamira , hooded, and Audubon (pictured above). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge extends along the final 275 miles of the Rio Grande River from Falcon Dam to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States.

Only certain tracts of the refuge are open to the public. These include Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County; the La Sal del Rey, Monte Cristo, and Yturria Brush Tracts in Hidalgo County, the Teniente and East Lake Tracts in Willacy County; and the La Puerta and Salineño Tracts in Starr County. Historical sites include La Sal del Rey, natural salt lakes where Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and area settlers came to mine salt; and the Palmito Ranch Battlefield, the site of the last battle of the Civil War.

Headquarters for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Interpretive and educational programs are managed in conjunction with the Santa Ana staff.

Mailing Address: Rt. 2 Box 202A, Alamo, Texas  78516

Phone: (956) 784-7500

Website: fws.gov/southwest/refuges

Please Note: This is the first in a series of stories on Rio Grande Valley nature hot spots

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.

—Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays.

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Parks Canada Honored as World’s First National Park Service

The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Friday (January 27) commemorated the importance of the Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch and the birth of Parks Canada as an event of national historic significance, according to a news release.

“Since it was established a century ago as the Dominion Parks Branch, Parks Canada has worked tirelessly to protect Canada’s diverse national heritage and encouraged Canadians everywhere to appreciate, experience, and enjoy all of Canada’s national treasures,” said Minister Kent.

“The plaque formally recognizes Parks Canada’s ongoing contributions to Canada’s heritage year after year as well as its own historical significance as the world’s first national park service.”

The designation commemorates Parks Canada’s 100 years of world leadership in conservation and tourism.

Founded on May 19, 1911 as the Dominion Parks Service, Parks Canada now manages one of the most extensive networks of protected national heritage places in the world, encompassing 167 national historic sites, 42 national parks, and four national marine conservation areas.

The plaque will be located in the Cascades of Time Garden on the grounds of the Parks Canada Banff Administration Building in Banff National Park.

“As the Minister for Parks Canada, my objective is to enable all Canadians to have meaningful opportunities to connect with Canada’s treasured places in order to build a stronger Canada, now and into the future,” said Minister Kent.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Created in 1919, and supported by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advise the Minister of the Environment regarding the national historic significance of places, persons, and events that have marked Canada’s history.

Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up a rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.

Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch

Canada established the first national parks service in the world in 1911. Under the leadership of James B. Harkin, the Dominion Parks Branch became a leading conservation body, both nationally and internationally.

Influenced by the rise of a conservation movement and the rise of tourism as a significant part of Canadian economic development, the Dominion Parks Branch linked together exceptional natural and historic Canadian landscapes, giving them a shared identity as “Dominion Parks.”

Harkin’s work culminated in the passage of the National Parks Act in 1930, and left a legacy that is the basis of the modern system of national parks and national historic sites that welcomes millions of visitors annually.

Since the 1885 creation of what is known today as Banff National Park, Canada’s earliest parks illustrate the recognition of the enduring beauty of such places and their appeal for public enjoyment and benefit.

Rocky Mountain Sheep are a common sight in Banff and Jasper national parks. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Under Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s government, The Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act passed on May 19, 1911. The act provided for the creation of a new branch to oversee Dominion Parks. Minister of the Interior, Frank Oliver, brought this bill through parliament, promoting the need for a parks service on the grounds that existing parks were lacking appropriate oversight and administration. Shortly thereafter, Oliver appointed his personal secretary and former journalist, James B. Harkin to the position of Commissioner.

In expanding the system, the Dominion Parks Branch looked beyond the natural realm and into the historical, adding “historic parks” to its list of protected places.

Fort Howe in Saint John, New Brunswick was the first historic park acquired in 1914. To assure integrity for the selection of historic places, a special arms-length advisory board, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, was created in 1919.

Wapiti (elk) grazing in Canada's mountain parks. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plaque Text
In 1911, Canada established the first national parks service in the world. What began as a cluster of parks in the Rocky Mountains gradually became a national system, fostering tourism and economic growth while upholding conservation ideals. In 1914, the definition of a “Dominion Park” was expanded to include significant historic places, laying the groundwork for a modern system of iconic national parks and national historic sites, which welcome millions of visitors annually, and initiating a tradition of national and international leadership in the management of protected places that continues to this day.

Details

Parks Canada

Website: parkscanada.gc.ca

Worth Pondering…

Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.

—Jovenel

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Texas RV Park Battles Restrictive Ordinance

Residents at the Corral RV Park in Tomball, Texas, love living the simple life owner and developer Mike O’Brien has created for them.

Aerial view of Coral RV Park in Tomball, Texas. (Source: corralrvpark.com)

But O’Brien’s plans to expand the park could force most of those residents out due to a zoning ordinance that limits tenants to only a 90-day stay, a restriction O’Brien was unaware of, yourhoustonnews.com reported.

According to city officials, the restriction was put into the ordinance in 2008 but it is not clear why the restriction was included.

Residents, along with members of the Corral RV Park Association, have come together with a signed petition to let the Tomball City Council know they want to stay and the 90-day restriction should be taken out of the ordinance.

O’Brien, along with 50 residents, attended the Tomball City Council meeting January 16 (2012). Council members were scheduled to make a decision on the ordinance. However, the council agreed to table the item until next month in order to review the information from O’Brien, the residents, and the city staff.

The Background

O’Brien, owner of K.E. Jams Investments Inc., owns and operates the small, quiet park, which is home to about 120 permanent residents. He purchased the original 10-acre park several years ago. Over the years, he purchased surrounding property and now has about 34 acres. The RV park spans about 15 of those acres.

The park has 158 spaces with water, electric and sewer hook ups. Although most are RVs, Lyn Koschel, who has managed the park for eight years, said there are four remaining mobile homes and two park models.

According to yourhoustonnews.com, this is the second time O’Brien has been to the council for approval to develop 23 acres of what he calls “dead land” adjacent to the RV Park.

100 foot open pull through sites at Coral RV Park in Tomball. (Source: corralrvpark.com)

According to O’Brien, he, the city staff, and council at that time could not agree on the plans for the park. O’Brien decided to scrap his plans at that point and invested his money in other projects. However, with new council members and staff members, O’Brien once again is looking to move forward with his plans.

While working with the city on his current plan, he learned about the 90-day restriction and decided he needed to address that with the council. Although the ordinance was passed in 2008 and the residents in the existing park are grandfathered in, the expansion would cause the whole park to fall under the ordinance and those residents would have to vacate the park.

“We need to get that off the books,” O’Brien said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Stoll said he has been out to the park to meet with both residents and O’Brien regarding the expansion.

“I don’t get involved in the day-to-day business of the city, but I wanted to sit down and listen to their concerns,” he said. “So when it comes (back) to council, we can discuss it as a group.”

Stoll said he is impressed with the quality of the park.

“I am not in favor of that 90-day restriction,” Stoll said. “Just because they live in an RV park doesn’t mean they are not citizens of Tomball. I’m not in favor of them enforcing that … if he expands that park and they tell them they have to move.”

O’Brien said he has developed strict regulations for potential tenants of the park. He said that is the best way to maintain the quality of the park, not the 90-day restriction.

Tenants pay month to month, which gives O’Brien the ability to evict tenants that do not follow the guidelines of the park. Rental fees begin at about $355 a month for a back-in lot and go up to $520 for a pull-though lot with full hookup.

“We cater to the older generation that is young at heart,” he said. “We don’t discriminate. The baby boomers are retiring and they don’t want to hassle with a house.”

Tomball Police Chief Robert Hauck said his department never has responded to the park for a crime related call.

Koschel said the average age of residents in the park is mid-50s. She said there are a number of veterans and winter Texans as well.

Concrete pull through sites at Coral RV Park in Tomball. (Source: corralrvpark.com)

“It’s a way of life, freedom,” Koschel said. “You have the elderly, who want to be close to family and maintain their independence.”

Despite the hang-up with the ordinance, O’Brien said he is optimistic that the council will listen to the residents and remove the restriction.

“Tomball is still strict on its regulations,” he said. “But the new group there has a much more commonsense approach. I feel the expansion will go on.”

Coral RV Park is a Good Sam Park.

Details

Coral RV Park

Address: 1402 S. Cherry St., #37, Tomball, TX 77375

Phone: (281) 351-2761 or (877) 263-0417 (toll free)

Website: corralrvpark.com

Worth Pondering…

There’s no better place than Texas to start over.

—John Connelly

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Traveling America: Camping & Working As You Go

More people are seeking out the stress free lifestyle offered by owning an RV. It’s all about spending time with family, the open road, and being anywhere you want to be with a new view at every turn.

As more RV owners seek out a way to stay on the road living a wonderful lifestyle and at the same time try to earn an income to support that lifestyle, campground owners are finding that employing these campers is a great way to obtain help in their campgrounds during busy periods and who better to work with fellow RVers than RV owners themselves, according to a RVJobLine.com news release.

Typically RV Park owners offer a free site and hourly pay to campers that want to work in the park or they might just offer a free site depending on the size of the campground. The working campers help in the office, help with maintenance of the campground, or they could be helping fellow campers with boat rentals or organizing events.

Typically RVers work between 20-30 hours a week in exchange for the free site and these could also be paid hours depending on how the campground organizes their working campers schedules.

It has turned out to be a win-win situation and campground owners have had so much success with using work campers that they seek them out each busy season.

Other companies have found work campers to be a great resource to help with busy periods during the year. Amazon employs working campers to help them during busy periods and there are companies like Oil Field Gate Guarding companies that utilize the services of RVers. Oil Field Gate Guards work on oil drilling sites and log traffic in and out of the site.

Work campers directed us to our site at Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other specialized companies also seek out RVers to help them with their businesses and these jobs can be found on RVJobLine.com.

RVJobLine.com is an on-line resource for campers that are looking for jobs in campgrounds as well as employers that are looking to hire campers to help in their campgrounds and parks.

When you subscribe to RV Job Line a Home Page is automatically created with your details and all active RV Jobs listed. When a new job is listed, it is immediately shown in your Home Page.

Following are some of the RV job opportunities that currently exist:

  • Campgrounds and RV Parks
  • Theme Parks
  • Amusement Parks
  • State Parks
  • National Parks
  • Tourist Attractions
  • Lodges
  • Cabins
  • Ranches
  • Outdoor Outfitters
  • Retreats
  • Oil Field Gate Guards
National parks are often in need of work campers. Pictured above is Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once a position is filled the employer can mark their ad as filled and it will automatically be removed from job seekers pages and any new email alerts.

Employers can sign-up on RVJobline.com and place the jobs that they have. All of the subscribed job seekers can automatically see these jobs in their home pages and they receive a weekly e-mail showing the open jobs and the contact details.

Details

RVJobLine.com

RV Job Line is an online resource for RVers who are looking for work as they travel around the United States and Canada.

RVJobLine.com provides employers with tools to place their ads directly in view of RV owners who are actively seeking new positions.

RVJobLine.com is sponsored by FifthWheelMagazine.com and TravelTrailerMagazine.com.

Website: rvjobline.com

Worth Pondering…
I see travel as the one of the most important ways of expanding human beings’ understanding of each other. Through travel we discover humility, love, friendship, passion and ourselves.”
—Kirsten Cargill

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Idaho State Parks Launching Passport Program

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency.

Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago, reports The Associated Press.

Parks and Recreation currently offers a similar annual parks pass, but it now costs $40 and raises only $800,000 annually. Merrill is banking on the reduced price—and access to a much-broader audience through Idaho’s car registration program—to help bring in an additional $1.9 million annually.

“We’ve been going through a lot of troubles and strife these last few years, and we’re now an agency reinvented,” Merrill told the Senate Transportation Committee last week (January 17). “We’re seeking a dedicated funding source. It would move us toward a long-term sustainable process.”

She expects a bill to create the program to be introduced January 31. It’s called the Idaho State Parks Passport.

Parks and Recreation funding is due to fall 2.7 percent to $35 million for fiscal year 2013, with only $1.3 million coming from taxpayers, according to Otter’s recommendation to the Legislature. Almost everything else comes from user fees, including camping, boat launches, and recreational vehicle hookups, according to the Associated Press.

Green squares mark location of state parks in Idaho.

State support is down 80 percent from 2010, when Otter gave Merrill the mandate to slash government support as the recession pinched overall Idaho tax revenue.

In Michigan, a similar program raised $10 million in the first eight months in 2011, and ended the year with $18 million in the bank, Merrill said. It allows annual access to Michigan’s 98 state parks and recreations areas and 1,000 boat launches.

About 28 percent of renewing vehicle owners opted for the Michigan sticker.

Merrill said she’s being a little more conservative in Idaho, which has a third as many parks. She estimates the owners of about 20 percent of Idaho vehicles, amounting to roughly 250,000 registrations, will take advantage of the program.

By itself, that would generate $2.5 million.

About $800,000 from Idaho’s existing $40 passport program would be lost, reducing the net take to $1.7 million.

But with revenue from out-of-state Idaho parks users who’d still pay $40 for an annual pass, combined with proceeds from campers, boaters, and day-trippers who don’t have an Idaho State Parks Passport, the total new money would top out at about $1.9 million, Merrill estimates.

It’s needed to pay for deferred maintenance, because the loss of state taxpayer funding didn’t negate the need to continue to fix roofs, bathrooms, and other ailing park infrastructure.

“We’ve had more visitors with less staff,” Merrill told lawmakers, adding each of Idaho’s 30 parks has been asked to come up with a business plan to capitalize on new revenue opportunities.

For instance, there will likely be Frisbee-golf rentals at Massacre Rocks along U.S. Interstate 84 in southern Idaho, sand board rentals at Bruneau Dunes State Park east of Mountain Home, and weddings at Old Mission State Park in Cataldo in northern Idaho.

“As they talk about ways to improve facilities like fixing bathrooms, they’re also talking about marketing ideas,” she said.

Related

Worth Pondering…
We didn’t inherit the earth; we are borrowing it from our children.

—Native American Proverb

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Enova and Freightliner Display Green for Free Vehicle

Torrance, California-based Enova Systems, Inc., a leading developer of proprietary hybrid electric and all-electric drive systems and drive system components for the emerging green commercial vehicle market announced that one of the first pre- production vehicles resulting from Enova’s and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp’s (FCCC) recently announced Green for Free initiative will be on display at the Portland International Auto Show January 26-29.

The Portland International Auto Show estimates that around 150,000 attendees will have the opportunity to view the latest Green, Alternative Fuel, and Electric Vehicle Concepts at the Auto Show’s Eco Center.

In its second year as one of the largest Eco Centers in the nation, visitors will be able to find out more about the latest technology in vehicle charging, solar power, and a large range of electric and electric hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, according to a news release.

The Green for Free Program is designed to allow fleet executives to operate full 100 percent electric commercial vehicles (EVs) for similar life cycle costs as those of diesel-powered commercial vehicles.

The anticipated savings fleets are expected to realize from the reduced maintenance and fuel cost of electricity of the electric vehicles are used over a period of time to cover the incremental expense for the technology. Fleet vehicles targeted with the Green for Free Program stand out as possessing unique characteristics that make them clear beneficiaries of electric drive technology.

With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation, the nation’s fleets possess enough capacity to drive initial ramp-up scale in the EV OEM supply chains. This is the first Program that is engineered to eliminate the overall incremental costs associated with buying and operating an all-electric vehicle, making the Program attractive to fleets that are both large and small.

Enova and Freightliner Displaying ‘Green for Free’ Vehicle in Portland. (Credit: greenforfree.com)

FCCC and Enova plan to gradually deploy a total of 3,000 alternative-fuel vehicles beginning in the second half of 2012 as a result of the Green for Free Program. Enova and FCCC have defined the Green for Free Program as a new sustainable transportation model in which both companies are working in partnership with commercial fleets to offer a transportation model that provides clean, safe domestic and renewable energy.

Details

Enova Systems, Inc.
Enova Systems is a leading supplier of efficient, environmentally friendly digital power components and systems products. The Company’s core competencies are focused on the development and commercialization of power management and conversion systems for mobile applications.

Enova applies unique ‘enabling technologies’ in the areas of alternative energy propulsion systems for light and heavy-duty vehicles as well as power conditioning and management systems for distributed generation systems. The Company develops, designs and produces non-invasive drive systems and related components for electric, hybrid-electric, and fuel cell powered vehicles in both the “new” and “retrofit” vehicle sales market.

Address: 1560 West 190th Street, Torrance, CA 90501

Phone: (310) 527-2800

Website: enovasystems.com

Green for Free

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) and Enova partner unveil the Green for Free Program. (Credit: greenforfree.com)

The Green for Free Program intends to allow fleet executives to purchase all-electric vehicles for the cost of a diesel-powered commercial vehicle. The projected savings fleets incur from the reduced maintenance and fuel savings of the electric vehicles (EVs) are then used over a period of time to cover the incremental expense for the technology.

FCCC is already well-established in the market and can provide immediate volume, which is required to reduce high-cost components, such as batteries. Additionally, the project looks to focus on disciplined duty cycles, utilizing 80 percent of the battery daily, versus design for extended range.

Website: greenforfree.com

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC)
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) manufactures premium chassis for the motorhome, delivery walk-in van, and school bus, and shuttle bus markets. FCCC is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, a Daimler company.

Website: freightlinerchassis.com

Worth Pondering…
Learning is not a spectator sport.

—D. Blocher

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Texas State Parks Donations Top $1 Million Mark

Since Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) launched a statewide appeal in early December for donations to aid a financially strapped Texas State Parks system, more than $1 million has been raised.

In an update provided to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission last week (January 26), TPWD staff reported that since the awareness campaign’s launch on December 6, donations to state parks have topped the $1 million mark, bolstered by three large contributions and smaller donations from more than 1,000 individuals.

“We’re off to a very promising start in what is just the first stage of what is an ongoing state park fundraising campaign,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “This shows that the people of Texas truly care about their state parks and want to see them stay open and accessible for all to enjoy.”

Two Texas-based nonprofit foundations accounted for the bulk of the more than $1 million in donations to the state parks general fund, with $500,000 coming from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation board of trustees and $250,000 from the T.L.L Temple Foundation.

Online donations from 980 donors through January 16 totaled $104,135, with the average donation being $106. Mail-in donations reached $58,000 and state park offices reported onsite donations approaching $12,000, more than twice the amount from the same period year ago.

In the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature authorized a budget strategy for Texas State Parks that included an additional $3 million in revenue from state park fees and $1.6 million from the optional vehicle registration donation program that officially took effect January 1, for a total of $4.6 million.

TPWD’s fiscal year 2012 budget included that contingent amount, but the revenues have not been realized due to the record drought, heat, and devastating wildfires that reduced park visitation.

According to the report to the commission, TPWD has just implemented a mechanism so that boaters can also make a donation when registering a boat. As of January 26, more than $69,000 has been donated through the motor vehicle registration option.

Let's Go RVing to Monahan Sandshills State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, the commission learned that an e-mail appeal last week from TPWD’s executive director to almost 185,000 state park visitors generated in a 24-hour period another 576 individual donations totaling more than $32,000, bringing the state park donations total to more than $1 million.

The commission acknowledged a number of donations benefiting wildfire-damaged Bastrop State Park, including a $100,000 gift from Meadows Foundations, Inc. to replace park vehicles and capital equipment.

TPWD and the TPW Foundation continue to aggressively seek donations from individuals, foundations, non-profit organizations, and corporate partners who recognize the importance of Texas State Parks and to work with media and other partners to promote visitation to state parks and awareness of the fundraising effort. Revenue from park visitation funds about half of the state park system’s $69 million annual operating budget.

Park officials continue to stress three ways Texans can help keep state parks open:

  • Go to tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks to make a tax-deductible donation
  • Make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration (You also can make a $5 donation when you renew your boat registration)
  • Finally, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks often with family and friends

Unlike earlier in the year when record heat kept visitors inside, parks are now experiencing cooler weather, parks are greening up after recent rains, and most importantly for many overnight visitors, campfires are being allowed again in most state parks. Check each park’s web page online for the latest information.

To learn about the various Texas State Parks and their offerings, or to make online camping reservations, visit texasstateparks.org.

Or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Details

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

Let's Go RVing to Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley State Park. Pictured above is the Altamira oriole, A "Valley Specialty." © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Texas State Parks

At Texas State Parks, there’s something for just about everyone. From high desert mountain mesas with incredible sunsets to tall pine forests, gulf coast breezes and hill country canyons, you’ll find some of the most scenic views anywhere in the Southwest at one of more than 90 state parks across Texas.

And there’s so much to do and enjoy. Whether you like to hike, camp, fish, swim, canoe or just relax with family and friends around a peaceful campfire, you can find it here. Some parks even offer things like horseback riding, or features such as cabins, yurts and lodges for people who love the outdoors, but still want some overnight comforts of home.

Rediscover everything you love about Texas and visit a state park today.

Texas State Park Donations: tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks

Worth Pondering…
After 7 days of trial and error, God created Texas on the 8th day.

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Tucson RV Resorts Receive $1Million in Upgrades

Rincon Country RV Resorts owner George O’Leary prides himself on his financial management skills and expects his latest investment to pay off in continued high occupancy.

Using $1 million of the company’s assets, O’Leary revamped the resort’s main boulevard by installing curbs and repaving the street and is upgrading the electric conduit infrastructure at Rincon Country West RV Resort, 4555 S. Mission Road, according to an Arizona Star report.

O’Leary said the upgrade brings the west location in line with the infrastructure he has at Rincon Country East RV Resort, 8989 E. Escalante Road.

The east park opened in 1979, followed by the west in 1984.

Combined, the two parks accommodate about 1,000 units.

“The place is actually full to the gills, or just about,” O’Leary said.

The work included putting in 18,000 feet of electric conduit material. O’Leary said the installation, when completed in the summer, will “bring us to the 21st century” and make it easier to complete repairs to the electrical system, slashing downtimes.

O’Leary said he made the upgrades in order to continue to draw snowbirds.

Although the electrical infrastructure improvement isn’t visible, the quarter-mile boulevard upgrade makes the park look better. Crews installed new curbs and repaved the streets on top of a new base.

“You would not believe the number of people who have complimented us,” said O’Leary.

Rincon Country West (Source: rinconcountry.com)

While the improvements have yet to translate into increased business for his two parks, O’Leary says it is imperative for RV Park and resort operators in Tucson and across the Sunbelt to continually make improvements to their parks if they want to continue to attract today’s snowbirds, the Arizona Star reports.

“I remember when we opened our first Rincon Country Park in 1970,” O’Leary said. “Our first renters were World War One retirees and Depression Era campers—a very frugal and easy to please group of people.”

Today’s snowbirds, however, are increasingly looking for high quality amenities and facilities, which means park operators have to continually upgrade their facilities if they want to retain or expand their market share.

“We are continuously improving the appearance and modernization of our resorts,” O’Leary said. “Quite often when folks drive into our parks, they say to us, ‘This looks like a new park.’ They are surprised to learn that Rincon County East opened for business in 1979 and Rincon West in 1984.”

In addition to making cosmetic improvements, O’Leary has also hired a new activities director for each resort and expanded his parks’ offering of activities, including classes and professional entertainment, including comedy shows, celebrity impersonators, and musical entertainment. Classes include arts and crafts, woodcarving, pottery, and ceramics as well as lapidary and silversmithing.

The resorts also offer periodic seminars on health related topics as well as potlucks, wine tastings, dances, and other social events.

“It will be nice to sit back and know the next generation is going to have it easier than I had it,” O’Leary said, noting that he has no plans to retire, despite being “as old as the hills.”

“They’re going to have to carry me out feet-first,” he said.

Details

Rincon Country RV Resorts

Rincon Country RV Resorts are rated in the top 2% of all RV parks nationwide for our top-notch spaces and amenities! Both resorts provide the facilities and amenities today’s RVers expect.

Website: rinconcountry.com

Rincon Country West RV Resort

Rincon Country East (Source: rinconcountry.com)

Address: 4555 S. Mission Road, Tucson, AZ 85746-2301

Phone: (520) 294-5608 or (800) 782-7275 (toll free)

Rincon Country East RV Resort

Address: 8989 E. Escalante, Tucson, AZ 85730

Phone: (520) 886-8431 or (888) 401-8989 (toll free)

Worth Pondering…

Winter in ‘Zona is spring
Spring is summer
Autumn is our winter
And summer is Hell.
—Cherishe Archer

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Let’s Go RVing: RV Vacation Still the Best Deal

Go RVing Canada announced Thursday (January 26) the results of a new Family Vacation Cost Comparison Study, which compares RV vacations with several other vacation modes.

This is the second installment of the study conducted by PKF Consulting and the results reveal that an RV vacation can be up to 78% cheaper than other forms of travel. This statistic has increased by 3% since the last study, conducted in 2009.

Several forms of travel were compared and in all cases, RV vacations were more economical than any other type of travel, regardless of trip duration, distance, or region of the country where the vacation took place, according to a news release.

The Study compared an RV Vacation with two other popular forms of family vacation: driving the family vehicle and staying at hotels, and travelling by air and rental car with hotel accommodations.

All costs associated with a family vacation were analyzed including fuel costs, air fare, restaurant meal cost, grocery cost, rental car cost, campsite cost, and hotel/motel cost. It is also important to note that the study also factored in vehicle ownership costs.

“The margin of savings is amazing. No one can deny that a family vacation in an RV really is incredibly affordable,” stated Alana Fontaine, Go RVing Canada National Spokesperson. “RVing is an excellent choice for families seeking to maximize their vacation budgets.”

Let's Go RVing to Jasper National Park, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cost benefits of RVing come from the flexibility of cooking in an RV and the affordability of campgrounds which offer both electrical and water hookups. According to the PKF Study, the average cost of campgrounds was $368 for a ten day trip from Halifax to Quebec City. The same trip averaged $1,754 in hotel costs with a car/hotel vacation.

As an example, the average cost of a seven-day RV vacation from Vancouver to Banff National Park using a lightweight travel trailer was 41 percent cheaper than the same vacation with a car/hotel option; and about 54 percent cheaper than a comparable air/hotel option.

The average cost per day of a three-day camping vacation to Algonquin Provincial Park from Montreal using a folding camping trailer was found to be about 43 percent less expensive than the cost of a comparable car/hotel combination vacation; and about 78 percent less than the cost of a comparable air/hotel vacation.

“This is the time when families are starting to think about their summer vacations. “90% of RV owners agree that RVing is the best way to travel with children,” concluded Fontaine.

“Many families are looking for affordable ways to see the country at its best and RVing is the perfect opportunity to accommodate a budget with a fun and flexible vacation.”

Details

Go RVing Canada

Let's Go RVing to Monument Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Go RVing Canada coalition was formed in 1997, and consists of RV manufacturers, RV dealers, and campground operators. The coalition serves as the Canadian RV camping industry ambassador to provide the public and media with information about the benefits of RV travel.

The coalition also seeks to enhance consumer information and satisfaction with the RV experience.

Address: 2175 Sheppard Ave. East, Suite 310, Toronto, ON   M2J 1W8

Website: gorving.ca

Worth Pondering…

Recreational vehicles are wonderful… To travel by RV is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers, in fact, to see life.
—with apologies to Agatha Christie

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Indiana Bill Would Exempt Non-Resident RV Sales Tax

Indiana Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, has authored legislation to boost recreational vehicle sales in both Elkhart County—the nation’s RV capital—and throughout the state of Indiana.

Touring the Newmar Corp. factory in Nappanee. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a report in the Goshen News, the bill would exempt sales tax of RVs and cargo trailers for nonresident purchasers who take their new RV purchase out of Indiana.

According to Neese, the bill would exempt from the state’s 7 percent sales tax on any RV or cargo trailer transported out of Indiana for registration or use in another state.

“The bill’s intent is to bolster Indiana’s RV sales and keep the revenue in Indiana,” Neese said. “Creating an incentive for customers outside of Indiana to purchase RVs in our state will hopefully attract added customers to Indiana RV retailers, strengthening Elkhart County and the state of Indiana’s economy.”

Under current law, Indiana RV and cargo trailer dealers are required to collect the 7 percent sales tax for sales to nonresidents who plan to register their RV in a state that does not provide reciprocal drive-out exemptions.

“Elkhart County is a nationwide leader in RV manufacturing. We don’t want to penalize those from out of state who are giving Indiana business or lose dollars that could be coming into Indiana,” Neese said.

Plain People, as the Amish and Mennonites call themselves, continue to follow the religious customs of their ancestors, who left Germany almost 300 years ago. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This is an important issue for RV retailers. My hope is that this will be one step closer to boosting sales for Indiana businesses, to strengthen our economy, and provide job opportunities for hard working Hoosiers.”

Neese said the bill is supported by the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association and the Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council.

The bill was read and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

Worth Pondering…
Gypsies! There must be gypsy DNA in my blood. How else can my gnawing desire to see what’s over the next hill be explained? Actually, I think this is a pretty common condition, given the mega bucks spend on tourism. And what better way to indulge this wanderlust than in a recreational vehicle? In our case, a motorhome.

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