In Spring, Texas (Houston)...
We had been aware of Thousand Trails for some time, reading blogs of some folks who are very happy with their memberships and noting others who were not very complimentary. Figuring that the Lake Conroe location may fit nicely in its proximity to our kids, we elected to drive out there and take a look.
This is a large (168 acres) facility with a gated entry and very nice common facilities, shown to us by Randall, a pleasant fellow who, thankfully, was not given to high pressure sales tactics, as we had feared. We even got a chance to drive around by ourselves to take a closer look.
We thought the location--with good lake access--was ideal, and we were impressed with the sections set aside for long term residents. These consisted largely of occupant-owned park models in a nice wooded setting.
However, the areas devoted to transient zone members with RVs--oh my! This was not good. Almost all of these sites, topped either with gravel or deteriorating asphalt, were in a horrible state of disrepair. The interior roads were crumbling, and many of the sites had deep ruts worn by heavy RVs and never reconditioned. Very few of the sites were level, and I would have been reluctant even to drive Phannie around in this area, for fear of tossing everything out of the cabinets. It appeared that about half the sites were occupied and that most of the unoccupied ones did not have 50-amp electrical service. Some of the campers had gone to extraordinary effort to level their rigs on the grossly uneven sites. I meant to take some photos of the ingenious leveling structures used, but I was so shocked by what I was seeing that I forgot to do so.
At the end of our tour, we sat down with Randall and told him we thought the program offered was attractive, but we simply couldn't get past the rather glaring disrepair of the RV sites. He cringed a bit at my remarks; this was obviously not the first time he had heard such comments. He then began to tell us that Thousand Trails had fallen on difficult financial times and had recently been bought out by Encore Properties, a large corporation that has plans to upgrade the 50 parks in Thousand Trails' system. Obviously, Encore has not yet gotten around to the Lake Conroe park.
It was easy to see that a good potential exists here that would make the facility much more attractive at what would seem like low costs for the improvements. I mean, really, how much can a load of gravel cost to fill the ruts and level a site? This is what didn't add up to us; they have a large and beautiful location that--for the want of some loads of gravel--is way underutilized. Obvious in their absence were big rigs like Phannie; the current clientele appears to be mostly campers with older towables. This indicates that a large segment of RV owners are turned off by what they see.
Now lest we are thought of as prima donnas, I should mention that we hardly demand luxury in the places we choose to camp. We try to look for good value and are quite happy in downscale places, so long as they are reasonably well kept, safe and clean. This park was certainly safe and clean, but the condition of the sites was a real head-scratcher. I'm sure there are other TT parks that are in better condition, so I won't make a blanket judgment about all of them merely by this one experience. We wish the best for Thousand Trails as they complete their upgrades; we will check back sometime in the future.