Florida’s FRVTA & Others Look to Hurricane Ian Recovery


An RV park is inundated with floodwaters Sept. 29 after Hurricane Ian, (Photo: Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm)

Hurricane Ian left an indelible destructive stamp in southwest Florida this week, with campgrounds and RV parks suffering catastrophic damage.

But, at least so far, it seems RV dealerships in the region fared better.

“They’re not in very good shape,” Pat Radtke, meeting planner and membership director for the Florida RV Park and Campground Association (FRVCA) told RVBusiness this morning (Sept. 30). “I just don’t know what to tell you. Some of them don’t even have phones.”

Pat Radtke

She was worried about a couple of her good friends from campgrounds in the affected area. “One of them can’t find her husband. One of them is homeless,” she said, with the anxiety of the situation apparent in her voice.

“I trained at the St. Pete KOA and I haven’t heard about them, but they’re surrounded by water,” said Radtke, who has been involved with the FRVCA for 30 years. “Not everybody has checked in or contacted us.”

FRVCA President and CEO Bobby Cornwell sent an email to members, noting that the organization has 50 member RV parks and campgrounds in the hardest-hit counties of Lee, Charlotte and Collier.

Bobby Cornwell

“This wonderful region of the state, which was the hardest hit, has more RV parks than anywhere else in Florida, and for good reason – it was paradise,” he wote. “The aftermath of Hurricane Ian was horrible to say the least, but SW Florida WILL without a doubt be rebuilt and WILL be paradise once again.”

Cornwell also offered words of encouragement in his email.

“Despite damages caused by the onslaught of Hurricane Ian, campgrounds and RV parks across Florida will get back up stronger,” he wrote, adding, “Florida is not shut down and SW Florida will rebuild and rebound. Our Florida RV Park and Campground Industry is very strong, and our park owners and operators are some of the best people in the world. I have no doubt the industry will rally together and support all those in need. If we hear of any special needs or requests from damaged parks, we will get the word out and let everyone know how they can help.”

The email noted that members can visit www.facebook.com/campflorida for information, park postings and other updates, also pointing out owners in financial need or those who want to donate could access the Florida Campground Association Disaster Relief Fund by calling 850-562-7151 or emailing him at [email protected].

Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly, executive director of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), which organizes the Florida RV SuperShow each year in Tampa, said the storm created a great deal of anxiety for his organization. “We had no idea where it was headed,” he said. “We thought it was coming right toward Tampa.”

So far, he said, dealerships he’s contacted seem to have largely escaped severe damage.

“Really, from the dealers, we haven’t heard much yet,” he said. “(Fort Myers-based) North Trail, which is one of the bigger guys down there, they reported that everything was in pretty good shape. We talked to a couple of other guys down there who said the same thing.”

He said most times during hurricanes dealers don’t move inventory from their lots, but instead organize units so that they’re protected as much as possible from the wind.

He also noted that the larger dealers are located near I-75, which is 20-plus miles from the coastline.

The next step in the process is recovery, and FRVTA will work to bolster the RV industry’s role in becoming part of the solution.

“We’re waiting to hear from the (Florida) emergency management agency about what they need, as far as units and where, and size requirements that they might need,” Kelly said. “We’ve already talked with the state agency months ago regarding just this kind of situation. We’ve alerted our bigger dealers that have product that they can pull from all over the country and put them on notice that we might be notifying them.

“It takes a lot of coordination. There are so many different organizations working and trying to coordinate with the state and who needs what at what location, and it takes a few days to figure out where we can even bring stuff in at this point,” he said.

Some areas already are designated as emergency preparedness areas where RVs can be placed to house people left homeless by the storm as well as emergency personnel and power grid workers coming into the state.

In the past, during Hurricane Charlie for example, FEMA has leased vacant farm grounds to create temporary parks for this purpose.

“Right off of I-75, I remember seeing these big, kind of man-made cities with trailers set up. The idea, I think, was mainly for the rescue and electrical guys, to get them housed down there somewhere, whether RVs or campgrounds,” Kelly said. “There’s just so much coordination to be done. We’re standing by waiting to hear where they need units and what kind, and our guys will be ready to go.”

Source: https://rvbusiness.com/floridas-frvta-others-look-to-hurricane-ian-recovery/