Motorhomes boon or bust to environment? |

Motorhomes boon or bust to environment?

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Visitors entering National Parks, in line with a wagon-train full of motor homes, may gasp with concern over their environmental impact. Are motorhomes dinosaurs that will slog into extinction by soaring gas prices, or are they long-term survivors, more environmentally friendly than they may first appear?

Sales are brisk. Shane Kramer, a motorhome sales consultant with Motor Sportsland in Salt Lake City, said sales have increased 25 percent over the past two years, he believes because of vacationers’ concerns about terrorism overseas. He said that the only change he has seen with rising gas prices is that motorhome aficionados are staying closer to home and taking more weekend trips. They are also spending more time at one location. The bus-sized motorhomes, which cost up to $2 million, may average 5 to 10 miles per gallon of gas.

However, Derrick Crandall, the president of The American Recreation Coalition, spoke before the U.S. Senate Commission on potential impacts of global warming on the recreation industry, May 24, 2007.

Crandall said the recreation industry is working to slow effects of global warming, which could have disastrous effects on the recreational industry with decreasing snowfall, beach erosion and climate change. The industry, he said is working to lessen the impact of visitors on camping destinations. It is also creating accessible transportation around such areas. And, the industry is looking into the ways visitors travel to the destinations and what could make such travel more environmentally friendly.

"You have to be very careful with assumptions," Crandall said during a phone conversation on the impact of motorhomes. "An RV uses more fuel than a Prius, but an RV often transports five people, while there may be only one in the Prius."

He said there is growing emphasis on motorhomes that run on diesel instead of gas, using less fuel. Motorhome generators are being powered by fuel cells, and motorhomes are being built of lighter-weight materials.

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Crandall said there "was universal acclaim by the U.S. Senate Commission of the benefits of getting people into the outdoors. It is very important to understand the positive picture of people using public lands and using the outdoors. People have a love affair for places such as the Utah mountains, with its forests and lakes."

"All predictions by a University of Michigan study predict growth in the percentage of people using RV’s. It gives people mobility and flexibility and helps make possible other activities."

Doug Sorensen, who with his wife Jane, own and manage Park City RV Resort in Kimball Junction says business at their resort has doubled since last year, and they plan to expand next spring, developing 46 more motorhome sites, designed for the higher-end motorhomes. They plan to sell parcels of motorhome sites, with owners paying association fees.

"RV popularity went crazy after the horror of Sept. 11," Sorensen said, adding, "People can’t buy $500,000 to $1 million coaches fast enough. We’re so booked we can’t accommodate them. Sometimes during the year, you’re literally one year out in bookings."

Rising gas prices have not slowed down motorhome use, according to Sorensen. "I have not had one person cancel a reservation because of gas prices. People are not going to sit back because of gas prices." He said he has seen a trend of more people downsizing in their motorhomes, "not because of gas mileage, but because of convenience."

Kim Peterson and his wife denese, formerly of Park City, retired and bought this motorhome, two years ago. They are building a home in Morgan, but spend four months a year on the road in their motorhome. "We’re not going to let gas prices slow us down," Kim said. "We stay in one place a week or a month," denese said. Considering environmental impact, she said, "We leave our site cleaner than when we arrived. far."

Jennifer Reynolds, from Salt Lake is spending a week in a motorhome at Park City RV Resort, with four family members for the Triple Crown World Series, a national girls’ fastpitch softball event, held in Park City. She said she doesn’t have to make the round trip to Salt Lake every day and spend a lot of money on gas.

The Pender family, who lives in Reno, is also staying at the resort for the tournament, in their instance, for two weeks. They drive their motorhome to all the events, where they find they have to make reservations well in advance.

There is little question motorhomes have advantages over other means of transportation and lodging associated with vacations.

"This saves us tons of money, said Scott Pender, the father of Amy, 10, who plays softball for the Nevada Lightning. "The resort costs us $35 a night for the four of us." He said they, as well as most other motor home enthusiasts tow a car behind the motorhome to travel locally, once they get to their destination. His wife Kim said other families attending the tournament are spending far more on hotels than they spend bringing their motorhome.

Amy said of making a trip in a motorhome, "You have everything with you and you don’t have to wait in long lines for a bathroom."

Speaking of retires who purchase motorhomes, which he affectionately refers to as ‘land yachts,’ and take to the road, Sorensen said, "It’s the American way," This guy has worked hard all of his life to get this."