Saturday, September 23, 2017
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The Texas Recreational Vehicle Association (TRVA) last week announced the top RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley. The top parks for 2016 are: Llano Grande Park in Mercedes, named the Top Large RV Park in Texas; VIP RV Park in La Feria, Top Medium-sized RV Park; and Oleander Acres, Top Small-sized RV Park.

In a special awards ceremony held at the Riverside Club in Mission Salome Welliver, president of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the Texas Recreational Vehicle Association RGV Chapter, gave out the awards. Welliver explained the selections were based on a lengthy application process where information must be submitted in many categories.

20161103 WEB TRVA-PhotosPrior to the awards presentations, Sergio Munoz, state representative for an area from Palmview to Pharr that has many RV parks, welcomed those who attended.

The first park honored was Llano Grande Park in Mercedes, named the Top Large RV Park in Texas. The manager, Karen Pike, was not present to accept the award.

John and Ruth Dearinger accepted the award for VIP RV Park in La Feria as the Top Medium-sized Park. This couple and VIP RV Park have won this award three of the past four years.

Ed Welliver, owner of Oleander Acres, accepted the awards for Top Small-sized RV Park.

After the awards were presented, the Winter Texan Times asked for more details about the selection process. Ruth Dearinger, of VIP Park, brought out her application notebook to show the categories.

The first area was customer service and reviews. She had enclosed notes from residents saying what they like about the park and thanking the management for things it had done to help them.

The second category was excellence in operations, which includes anything the management does to help its patrons. Dearinger included a map provided to help new residents locate services they might need. She also included information about the park’s First Responder program. There was also a list of city events and park contests that is given to residents when they arrive. The information also included an evaluation of employees who work in the park, “How Did I do?”

Another section looked at community service. VIP collected box tops for education, and bottle caps and pop tops for the Ronald McDonald House. They held food drives for a local food pantry and some of the women got together to make and donate quilts to the local hospitals.

The section on Park Growth included new improvements such as offering line dancing classes and planning special field trips.

The Visual Appeal category dealt with upkeep of the park. Dearinger said they had demolished some old buildings and painted and landscaped other areas.

After Dearinger was finished, Salome Welliver brought over the Oleander Acres application book. One of the areas she highlighted was landscaping. Oleander Acres is the first RV park in the state to have a butterfly garden. They also do a Monarch Rescue project, where they plant milkweed plants as habitat for the endangered Monarch butterflies. While it started out as a strip garden, it has expanded to almost half an acre planted with milkweed for the monarchs and other host plants for other butterfly species that migrate through the area.

According to Welliver, the effort has paid off. Recently a very rare butterfly, an Eruto Heliconin, usually only found south of the Mexican border, was spotted in the Oleander Acres butterfly garden. Park residents have begun harvesting caterpillars and keeping them in a safe place to assure they grow to become mature butterflies.

Under Community Service, Welliver said several Oleander Acres residents volunteered their time for the McAllen Nature Center, helping with planting native habitat in the park.

Some residents in the park raised funds and provided gifts for children in an orphanage in Mexico, while others knitted caps for the children’s department at local hospitals.

Another group does volunteer work at Valley Haven, a home for children who have been removed from their homes.

One of the innovative things the park has done is to add some tent sites. Welliver explained there is a group of campers with Adventure Tours who travel into Mexico on motorcycles who carry tents with them. Oleander Acres has added some tent sites to accommodate them on their travels to and from Mexico. The tents sit on a base of crushed gravel instead of lumpy uneven ground.

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