The Escapees RV Club has taken the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to task over a kit ARVC has prepared to assist members who want to bring to a halt free overnight parking in retail store parking lots.
“It is a call to action to ARVC’s members,” said Cathie Carr, CEO of the 32,000-member RV club based in Livingston, Texas, which has traditionally defended the rights of individual RV owners to “boondock” and otherwise camp where they, within reason, may so choose. “I was shocked to see it.”
However, ARVC President Linda Profaizer said there has been no change in ARVC’s policy toward free parking, a practice viewed negatively by many in the private campground business. She says the kit – publicized recently on ARVC’s Internet website – www.arvc.org – was simply prepared to assist members or state organizations choosing to contest the issue locally.
“Some of our members are hurt by free parking issues,” Profaizer told Woodall’s Campground Management. “Up to this point all we have been able to say to those who have asked us about the issue was, ‘We’re sorry you have a problem.’ We thought a self-help kit would be a little more proactive and provide them with some assistance.”
The issue of camping overnight in retail parking lots was a source of some friction between the Escapees and ARVC in the late 1990s – leading at one point to an Escapees boycott of an Illinois ARVC member’s facilities.
Controversy subsided in 2000 when ARVC established a free parking policy recognizing “the consumer’s right and freedom to utilize a range of camping facilities, both public and private.”
As part of the policy, rather than fight the free parking issue nationally, ARVC said it would help state associations and ARVC members who wanted to establish local laws or enforce existing local laws and regulations. “We are not challenging any RVers and we are not out there working with local authorities to change anything, except where they might have a policy already in place,” Profaizer said.
The kit was recently publicized on ARVC’s website – www.arvc.org – with the question “Are you a victim of ‘free’ overnight parking?” The site then promised “help and guidance to members who are plagued by this all too common problem.”
“The ARVC kit will provide an overview of the problem, explain how to get local government to take action, provide model legislative language that can be applied in such situations, and encourage the formation of a network of RV parks and campgrounds that have been confronted by the problem of free overnight parking,” the web posting stated.
Carr told Woodall’s Campground Management that ARVC publicizing the kit “is a step backwards” in dealing with this delicate debate. “We had hoped that, over the past couple of years, campground owners and their association had come to terms with the free parking options that realized that the perceived competition is simply not real,” Carr said in a message posted on the
Escapees website – www.escapees.com. “Free parking options are occasionally the most sensible solution for RVers who are simply passing through an area and nothing more.”
Carr said her club will continue to counsel its members about not abuse free parking while protecting RVers’ choices and rights.