Feature Article - October 2004
Find a printable version here

Got it Covered

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

By Kelli Anderson


The camping industry is undergoing a change. With Americans experiencing a continuing healthy economy and a preoccupation with luxury, it comes as no surprise that the demand for convenience has gone from the remote control to remote camping. With a 16 percent to 17 percent increase in growth, the camping industry is happy to accommodate the current crop of nature lovers who want to experience the beauty of the outdoors—comfortably.

"In recent years, convenience camping has become popular," says Pete Dolan, customer service representative with a yurt manufacturing company. "People don't want to set up camp. We're seeing more deluxe rentals."

Brenda Hewitt, vice president of marketing for the Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks, Alaska, agrees, saying that people are seeking ease and simplicity on their vacations.

But what makes one group comfortable may make another group cringe. Families want camp sites where they can have fun and be noisy, while seniors and empty-nesters, as a general rule, want a quieter getaway. Today's young and not-so-young campers, however, want a convenient, unique experience.

"Tricked-out is in," says Bud Stier, operations manager of Crystal Lake Family Campground in Lodi, Wis. "High-end is a trend. The big hurrah is to have deluxe campsites in a private area that's screened, with a Jacuzzi and satellite TV."

However, what Stier has observed from his 24 years' experience in the industry is what really makes the grade is doing a job right, not necessarily high-end.

"Kids control the destination, but Mommy controls where you're sleeping," he says. With that philosophy in mind, clean bathrooms—the closer to the sleeping areas the better—dry, carpeted floors and pleasant surroundings with a dash of "wow" will go a long way to earning a repeat customer.

"Whatever you do," Stier advises, "it needs to be first-class, not necessarily high-end. It's common sense."


Spectators of all kinds appreciate shade whether for watching sports, watching kids or watching waves. The splash of color and festive shapes of sun umbrellas and cabanas, for example, are just as synonymous with beaches and water play as beach balls and bikinis. But with the added concerns of health, shade structures are appearing in greater and greater numbers.

"Where we once went to the pool for sun," Downs says, "we now seek shade."

Aesthetically, umbrellas are a architect's dream with the many dramatic colors, shapes and fabrics with which they can create spectacular attractions. And as a temporary or semi-permanent feature, changing out the colors, logos and styles of these structures is an easy way to add new splash to a tired look.

"The advantages of umbrellas are two-fold," says Steve Pastusak, assistant general manager of Bayshore Development, which manages Splash Mountain Waterpark in Ocean City, Md. "First, for looks—the color and the height—and second, for functionality. People don't want to bake in the sun while eating or lounging, especially for caregivers or grandma and grandpa who'd rather be in the shade. It gives them somewhere to go."

It's about aesthetics and, in today's UV-conscious society, safety.

Cabanas, tent-like structures with one or multiple side walls, have special appeal for those who like a little privacy with their shade. At Splash Mountain, 10 cabanas were installed this summer as a shade solution for a play structure space, although Pastusak was initially skeptical about their appeal.

"We never thought we'd have a need for them, but now they're the first thing that go," Pastusak says. "A family will claim one and stay for the whole day. We really didn't think anyone would go sit in one, but as we're now learning—they will."