Mirroring a discussion that has cropped up in numerous locales in recent years, the city council of the Canadian community of Kenora, Ontario, is continuing to wrestle with the “sticky issue” of whether to allow recreational vehicle enthusiasts to park overnight at the city’s Wal-Mart store.
As the Daily Miner and News points out, Wal-Mart generally “extends the courtesy” of overnight parking to travelers in municipalities where it’s permitted. However, the city, responding to the concerns of local campground owners, recently passed a bylaw prohibiting the practice and posted on-site ‘no overnight parking’ signs.
As has often been the case elsewhere, the ban apparently sparked Internet blog reports from disgruntled RVers that Kenora is unfriendly to tourists and advised others to boycott the community.
The city, which generally draws appreciable tourism traffic, has received public comments both for and against the ban and requested more information from the Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corporation, which operates the Tourist Information Centre and provides related services through a funding agreement with the city.
Carol Davis, Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corporation tourism and communications manager, updated council members last week, telling them that she is sympathetic to both sides of the argument. On one hand, her job is to encourage visitors to come to Kenora and the area, while at the same time to promote local businesses such as Anicinabe Park, the municipal campground located near Wal-Mart which the city leases to a private operator.
While the issue is an emotional one for those affected, Davis said an Internet search for more information on this controversy was inconclusive, as much of the data was anecdotal and couldn’t be verified or corroborated one way or the other. Meanwhile, she acknowledged, a survey indicated that local campground traffic was down last summer in Kenora. But the decline couldn’t be directly attributed to Wal-Mart competition.
Davis, in turn, maintains that the real issue in Kenora involves ease of access.
“No local campgrounds have pull-through campsites to accommodate 40-foot RVs, especially those pulling a boat,” said Davis. She added that many RVers arrive in town after 10 p.m. when the local campground gates are closed and park overnight before moving on, perhaps to stay at another campground in the area which can accommodate their large rigs.
Davis concludes that banning overnight RV parking at Wal-Mart doesn’t solve the problem and sends out the wrong message to travelers, creating hard feelings rather than good will. However, she recommended that the city continue with its current policy and signage, enforcing the no-overnight-parking bylaw at its discretion.
City planner Jeff Port endorsed the recommendation. “Sometimes it seems more of an emotional issue than a rational issue,” he said.
Council committee chairman Colin Wasacase suggested the council may follow up with a public meeting so all sides have an opportunity to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, he emphasized the importance of promoting Kenora as a tourist-friendly destination.”We’re open to tourism,” he said. “It’s thriving and doing well.”