Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Snowbirds arriving early in Arizona

Snowbirds are arriving in Arizona two to four weeks ahead of schedule in what is shaping up to be a stronger 2014-2015 winter season.

“I’m getting them coming in two weeks to a month earlier and they are extending out longer at the other end (of the winter season),” said Sabrina Welborn, office manager for the 265-site Silverview RV Resort in Bullhead City. “The phone is ringing and I have a stack of emails to respond to to see who we can accommodate. We’re already at about 90 percent occupancy for January, February and March and we expect to be at 100 percent in those months.”

RV parks in the Phoenix area are seeing the same trend. “We are seeing people come in earlier and they are staying longer, which is good news for the local economy,” said Jim Mathew, operations supervisor for Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort in El Mirage. “The reservations came in a lot faster this year.”

“We’re already getting busy,” said Jan Venard, assistant manager of Phoenix Metro RV Park. “The season is starting earlier.”

 “We’ve even been having people arrive (for the winter) with no reservations,” said Eric Vargas of the 203-site Desert’s Edge RV Park in Phoenix.

While many Arizona RV parks are reporting an earlier than usual arrival of snowbirds, the numbers of snowbirds arriving at each park varies. Apache Palms RV Park in Tempe, for example, is reporting small numbers of early snowbird arrivals, as is Rincon Country RV Resort in Tucson.

RV park operators attribute the early influx of snowbirds to cooler weather up North and to the Farmer’s Almanac, which is forecasting a cold, hard winter in many areas up north. “Some of our guests tell me they have already had the snow hit,” said Welborn of Silverview RV Resort. “Some have also said they want to do the drive now and get out of it.”

 Jo Ann Mickelson, who co-owns and operates JH RV Park in Flagstaff, said her park, which closed for the winter on Saturday, has been unusually busy this month with Canadians heading south. “We’ve had a lot of Canadians already coming through,” said Mickelson. “We usually don’t have them at this time of year. We’re usually closed by the time they come through.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Arizona fuel tax rumor goes viral -- here's the real story

A memo circulating among the full-time RVers group, Escapees, has gone viral, creating no end of confusion regarding Arizona diesel fuel taxes. The memo, picked up by at least one RV forum early October 14, would make it appear that motorhome owners who have a rig with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, or having three or more axles, must fuel at commercial truck islands, and pay a higher tax rate than other RVers. We contacted the Arizona Department of Transportation for clarification, and want to set the record straight.

What confuses the issue is the two-tier tax system the Grand Canyon State uses on diesel road fuel sales. If you stop at a diesel fuel pump at any station in Arizona, you'll find a warning sticker that suggests you can be subject to a $1,000 minimum fine if you improperly use the lower taxed (18 cents per gallon) diesel fuel intended for 'small trucks.' The sticker even mentions the 26,000 pound/3 or more axle "rule."

But there's a lot more in the details. We spoke with Arizona Department of Transportation Fuel Tax Manager, Chris Kent on Wednesday the 14th. Kent was able to dig through the finer points of the fuel tax law. Basically the whole issue hinges on two different state statutes. One (28-54320) speaks to "weight fees." The other, (28-5606) specifies what vehicles must pay the higher motor fuel tax. In a nutshell, the motor fuel tax statute says any, "use class motor vehicle" used on Arizona roadways must pay the higher tax. What makes a "use class motor vehicle"? The devil is in the details.

Of interest to RVers, particularly motorhome owners, is this simple exemption from what makes a "use class motor vehicle." First, for all RVers, provided your rig has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or less and has but two axles, you're exempt from "use class," and hence, exempt from paying the higher tax rate on fuel.

For motorhomes, Arizona DOT's Kent pointed us to a 2004 agency policy memo, number 13.2.3. Boiled down, the policy says as long as a motorhome has at least four of the following items, it is exempt from "use class" (and higher fuel taxes). Those items include:

"A cooking facility with an on-board fuel source,
"A gas or electric refrigerator
"A toilet with exterior evacuation
"A heating or air-conditioning system with an on-board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine
"A portable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection
"A 110-125 volt electric power supply"

If you've got at least four of those things, even if your motorhome has a weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds and/or more than three axles, your rig is NOT a "use class" motor vehicle, and thus does NOT have to pay the higher fuel tax rate. One last detail: For your motorhome to meet the 'lower fuel tax use OK' test, it must be used for recreational purposes. If used for commercial purposes, once you hit over 26,000 pounds and/or more than two axles, you are stuck paying the higher tax rate.

Updated 10/15/14 to clarify commercial versus recreational use. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alamo State Parks sets aside campsites for long stays

Alamo Lake State Park has designated some campsites for Long Term Camping from now through March 31, 2015. Guests who wish to take advantage of stays of longer than two weeks are required to pay in full for the first two weeks of their stay along with the $5 reservation fee. The minimum length of stay for a long-term site is 28 nights (4 weeks). The maximum length of stay is 84 nights (12 weeks).

Nestled in the Bill Williams River Valley away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the park is one of the best places to fish for bass in Arizona. The lake is surrounded by mountainous terrain speckled with brush, wildflowers and cacti making for a visually pleasing experience. The park has excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, and you may spot a bald or golden eagle.

For nature lovers, spring rains bring an abundance of wild flowers and the lake environment attracts a variety of wildlife year round, including waterfowl, foxes, coyotes, mule deer and wild burros. Stargazers enjoy the amazing views of the night sky with the nearest city lights some 40 miles away!

To reserve a long-term campsite, please call the Reservation Center at (520) 586-2283.

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