New cabins offer variety in the Crossroads


July 5, 2013 at 2:05 a.m.

The KOA campsite near Coleto Creek Reservoir is adding cabins to its pad site nestled in a lane of oak trees.

The KOA campsite near Coleto Creek Reservoir is adding cabins to its pad site nestled in a lane of oak trees.

The shaded setup wasn't quite home, but Wednesday, it came pretty close.

Settled between two parked RVs, a little girl played on her parents' smartphone while the family dogs romped in nearby grass.

In a semicircle of folding chairs, others swapped stories and finished setting up for the days ahead.

Camping is a tradition for the Cervantes and Deater families, who pulled into Victoria's Coleto Creek Lake KOA for a stay over the Fourth of July.

"It's really about being with family," said Marilyn Cervantes, a Schertz resident who drove into Victoria with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. "There's no packing or unpacking because you have everything you need in the RV. It's just a different lifestyle."

And they aren't alone.

Nearly 43 million people nationwide took to the great outdoors on camping trips in 2011, according the 2012 American Camper Report, a joint project put together by The Outdoor Foundation, Coleman and KOA. That's up from the 39.9 million campers the year before.

2011 is the most recent report data available.

And while tents and RVs remain common camping methods, some say decked-out cabins have become increasingly popular.

In October, Victoria's KOA campground opened for business with its RV sites and other amenities, said Terry Dick, the park's general manager. Now, however, two fully furnished cabins have joined the mix.

The new buildings, which each sleep six and cost about $130 per night, offer cable TVs, full bathtubs and air conditioning, while one also includes a full kitchen.

It's a concept Dick described as "glamping," or glamorous camping.

"It's catching on," he said, noting KOA probably purchases about 300 such cabins a year, and additional cabins could join the Victoria park down the road. "You have all the comforts of home, yet you're not home. It's a cheap, convenient getaway."

KOA will host a ribbon cutting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to officially open the new cabins. The public is invited, he said, noting a continental breakfast and tours of the park will be available.

Still, his isn't the only area park with such options.

John Rossello, who opened Breezy Palms Cottages and RV Park three years ago in Seadrift, said business has increased every year. He attributed that growth partly to the region's ongoing oil boom, he said, but also said the pastime continues to gain in popularity.

In addition to the cost element - like Dick, Rossello said camping costs less than other getaways - he said it's a hobby that puts everyone on an even keel.

"You can have a guy with $1 million rig parked next to someone with a $1,500 rig, and they might be best friends," he said, noting it's different than people who live in higher-class neighborhoods versus lower-class ones. "Everybody's equal in camping."

Another benefit to cabin camping, Rossello said, is the privacy that comes with it. Unlike hotels, where people share walls and can overhear TVs and conversations, cabins offer a more private home away from home.

The Seadrift business has also done its part to jazz up the camping experience.

In addition to the company's available cabins and RV sites, Rossello said Breezy Palms last year converted a retired shrimp boat into what the company dubbed its new "boatel."

"Everybody loves it," he said of the converted cabin, the Susie-Belle, which includes a TV, multiple beds, a kitchenette and more. "I think people are just looking for something different."

Another Crossroads campsite aiming to offer up that "something different" element is Edna's Brackenridge Recreation Complex, which built its high-end cabins, complete with full kitchens, bedding, cooking supplies and other amenities, about six years ago.

Cabin rentals often coincide with the weddings and other events that take place at the complex, said Liz Stuhrenberg, facility coordinator for the park and campground, but business travelers and others also rent them out.

She said the option allows the park to reach more people.

"It's not necessarily taking the place of camping," Stuhrenberg said of the cabin trend. "It's just another alternative for those who don't own an RV or camper and don't particularly want to tent camp."

Stuhrenberg said she feels camping as a pastime has held steady through the years and has picked up momentum in today's economy. Fewer people today take trips outside the state or country, she explained.

"You do see a larger trend of people wanting to escape to the outdoors and get in to being with nature," she said. "They want to get out of the concrete jungles."

As for Cervantes, all the aforementioned benefits apply. Still, another issue is key when it comes to camping - cleanliness.

She said she rests better knowing she isn't sleeping on the germy bedspreads and pillows that come with the territory in some places.

"I'm a major proponent of nonhotel living," she said, noting her camper even offers its own washer and dryer.

"My mom raised me to be a germophobe."



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