Feature Article - October 2004
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Got it Covered

Adding the right outdoor elements, including shelters, gazebos and building structures

By Kelli Anderson

They began as the consolation prize with a strange name: yurts.

When Crystal Lake Family Campground in Lodi, Wis., installed its first yurt structures three years ago, its most popular rental unit was the A-frame, booked solid from January to Labor Day. Yurts—round, tent-like structures with fabric stretched over sturdy wooden-latticed frames—were introduced as the campground's alternative to A-frame overflow.

"We'd offer yurts," says Bud Stier, operations manager of the campground, "and they'd say, 'never heard of it.' Then they'd try it—yurts that sleep as many as 12 with air-conditioning, futons, carpeting and fans—and they couldn't believe it, and they'd ask, 'How do we sign up for next year?' Now they're our most popular rental. It's very affordable. It's unique, and if properly done, people will seek you out. It just mushrooms."

The yurt, which is a rapidly rising star in the landscape of outdoor structures, is a poster child for all things popular in outdoor shelters. Patrons are seeking the unique, the convenient and the high-end, while managers seek the affordable, maintainable and distinctive.

Thanks to constantly improving materials and structural designs, yurts are among those structures that are catering to the public's desire for a distinctive outdoor experience with the comforts of luxury. The yurt's Mongolian ancestor would hardly recognize it's newfangled American cousin. High-end kitchens, hot tubs, polished hardwood floors, cooling and heating systems, and lofted bedrooms reflect the western desire for modern luxury, while the structure's basic design still retains an airiness and freshness reminiscent of its ancient roots.

Camping structures aside, if it's shade structures you're investigating, you're not alone. The myriad of UV-related dangers to our health—such as the 1,800 percent increase in malignant melanoma since 1930—has transformed our sun-loving culture into a more health-conscious one. Understandably, the shade structure industry is booming.

So, whether the structure you want is as small as a kiosk or as large as a pavilion, knowing how to add today's outdoor elements to cater to both your patron's needs and your own, means knowing the trends, the options and the do's and don't's.

Not to worry—we've got it covered.