This is written in response to a call from Davis Creek Campground which prompted the SNU to cancel it's plans for a March 2008 rally there and relocate to Pyramid Lake. The decision was made when Davis Creek announced that it wanted a special insurance policy specifically naming them for our rally in March. This decision was not based solely on the insurance issue. Many other factors influenced the decision. This is a rundown on the factors behind that decision.
As of January 2008 the average attendance at an SNU rally is about 5 rigs. The highest number of rigs at a rally to date was 11 at Twin Lakes in August 2007. These numbers influence how we think about and plan SNU rallies.
The SNU has been very consistent in applying due diligence to rally planning. The SNU plans it's rallies a year in advance. The Unit member organizing the rally, does preliminary research into the potential site to learn about fees, reservations, restrictions, and other matters that may determine the feasibility of the site. They contact – by phone, email, and in person - the campground host, park ranger, or other officials as indicated. They make any necessary reservations as required by the site, They follow up to ensure all requirements have been met and to keep the site officials apprised of any changes in plans or expected number of participants.
In regards to Davis Creek, this was to be the
SNU's fourth visit to this site. As per past experience the ranger
was contacted in the fall of 2007. On January 1, 2008 in accordance
with park policy, the SNU called the park to reserve the group area
for the March dates. The park called for more details, which were
provided and they said they would send out the reservation form.
After 2 weeks when the form had not been received, a follow up call
was made and again, plans were clarified. A form was finally
received. Two days after receiving the form another call from Davis
Creek indicated the need for special insurance naming them on the
policy. This requirement is apparently brand new. It was never an
issue on previous rallies at Davis Creek. There was no mention made
of insurance concerns in any of the phone calls with Davis Creek in
early January 08.
The inability to depend on rules and criteria remaining the same from our initial contact with a potential site and the actual date of the event has been an issue before. This was behind the change of venue for the 2007 fall rally at Ft Churchill. After following SNU due diligence procedures it was learned in a follow up phone call a month prior to the rally that the site we had selected was already booked for the weekend of our rally and that a reservation form should have been filled out. This was never mentioned in any previous conversations over the past year, nor was there any indication on the park website that reservations were needed for this dispersed area. The alternate site was also booked although we had been told it was not a regular camping area and that the previous year we had been allowed to hold a rally there as a special accommodation. Similar problems occurred at Twin Lakes. We had been told they would accommodate more trailers than the site actually supports and that we could park in areas where parking is not usually allowed. Then, when some participants parked, they were told they had to move and it was discovered that there were criteria as to exactly how and where to park.
As an entity of WBCCI, the SNU is covered by WBCCI insurance policies. To be covered by those policies a rally must meet some minimum criteria. The SNU rallies meet those criteria and to date, there has never been a concern regarding insurance. The fact that the number of potential participants at the Davis Creek rally would probably be under 7 rigs makes the extra effort to get special insurance questionable.
The SNU specifically set it's rally fee at $5 per night per rig to encourage participation. This rally fee is considered a donation rather than a mandatory payment. The SNU also wanted to be as flexible as possible. To have participants pay only for the days they actually attend rather than pay a total fee that would cover the entire rally regardless of how many days they were able to participate. The thought behind setting the rally kitty at $5 per night is that the SNU did not want money to be a determining factor in participation. To date, the $5 kitty fee policy has been sufficient to meet the SNU's needs in part because of the types of rally sites the SNU prefers and also because we have chosen not to plan or organize any activities or special events at rallies that require financial support. Any special activity such as the brunch at the Unionville rally is paid by each individual and is totally optional.
Fees at Davis Creek are $75 per day for up to 25 people for the group area. This would be covered by the SNU. Davis Creek charges $3 per person for any over 25. It also charges day visitors $3 per day. In addition there is a $1 per night per "pet" charge. Although the group area fee is reasonable and annual combined donations to the rally kitty provide the funds necessary to cover this fee, the extra charges complicate matters for both the Unit and individual participants. It puts a damper on any potential visitors who might stop by just to check us out or members who can't bring their rig but want to come for the meeting or just to visit.
The SNU needs to pay attention to group area fees to ensure that we have budgeted sufficiently for them. With an average attendance of 5 rigs group fees of $75 per night, or more commonly $90 and up can become an issue as the attendance might not cover the expense. The way the SNU has chosen to deal with this is by ensuring that our rally schedule includes a majority of areas that do not require a group reservation fee. Thus group areas with higher fees become more of a special event location rather than a standard choice.
The regular campground at Davis Creek was considered but in light of past experience at Davis Creek and other locations, and considering SNU preferences, this was not deemed a viable option.
The SNU has two rather unique preferences in regards to it's rally policies that have proven to increase participation and encourage membership. On the other hand, these two preferences can provide some challenges in rally planning. The first is the SNU's open door preference. The SNU has chosen to welcome any Airstreamer who shows up at our rallies regardless of whether they notified us of their intentions. The SNU encourages people to come whenever they want for however long they want within the stated rally dates. There is also the option come before the actual start of the rally or stay after if they so choose. We also encourage people to come by just for a visit or to check us out. The second preference is to not require deposits or payment in advance for rally attendance. These preferences mean that we never know for sure how many participants to expect at any given rally or when they might show up. It means the SNU chooses sites that can accommodate a varying number of rigs and does not require us to “reserve” for a specified number of rigs. Anticipated participation is based on past experience and knowledge of the membership as well as the “official” rsvp count. To date, the anticipated participation used to determine an appropriate rally site has been a maximum of 20 rigs. As of January 2008 we are still well under this maximum.
The first rally at Davis Creek was held in the main campground. It was a busy weekend and as a result there were two rigs that showed up planning to participate in the rally that had to turn around and go home because there were no campsites available. The SNU saw neither of these people again. In addition a few people that came by for the day were required to park in a day parking area, pay a $3 entrance fee, and walk quite a way up to the rally site. A rally at Ft Churchill in 2002 and one at Dayton in 2005 both in regular campgrounds, caused concern regarding available camping spots for rally participants. In both cases limited attendance and no unexpected visitors were the only reasons we had space. Dates also played a factor.
The SNU is a volunteer group. All of our activities and operations are carried out by members who chose to offer their time, energy, experience, and expertise to the Unit. By minimizing the efforts needed for pre-planning, preparation, and details, and by being flexible, the SNU encourages members to help with rally planning. These concepts also encourage members to volunteer to assist with all other duties needed to keep the Unit viable and to meet the needs of it's membership.
The bottom line for the SNU is to get out and enjoy your Airstream and the fellowship of other Airstreamers. The SNU does this in part by keeping things as simple, as flexible, and as cost effective as possible. The focus is on enjoying the experience and encouraging others to join in the fun.
What do we do when the rules change on us?
How do we find potential rally sites that do not burden the SNU with excessive rules, costs, or other limitations?
Should the SNU begin requiring rsvp's at rallies? Are we willing to turn people away who have not rsvp'd?
Should the SNU increase the rally kitty fee or make it a mandatory fee?
Check the SNU Op Notes - Rally Site Considerations
for more information.
Letter written in 2004 to the Nevada Division of State Parks after our experience at Dayton.
Check the Owner's
Guide Participating section for information about planning and
conducting rallies and caravans.
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