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While Wal-Mart is widely known in recreational vehicle circles for its free accommodations, camping is forbidden at two Michigan outlets because of opposition from local governments.
The Flint Journal reported that officials in Fenton and Grand Blanc Township instituted bans against overnight camping.
“I think it might be an overreaction,” said Bob Wiley, a former Michigan resident who now lives in California and publishes a book for RV owners that pinpoints the locations of Wal-Mart stores.
“They might be thinking of people setting up tents and barbecuing and all that,” said Wiley, who has stayed overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots. “It’s really not camping. It’s parking overnight. It’s just that they might picture in their mind that it’s going to be unsightly, when they really just have some nice motor homes being there.”
But Carrie House, who lives in the subdivision just west of the Fenton Wal-Mart, said the RVs bring noise and create an eyesore. The store recently installed “no overnight parking” signs in response to complaints from nearby residents.
Grand Blanc Township Clerk Linda Kingston said aesthetics was the main reason the township required Wal-Mart to prohibit overnight camping or parking. The township has received no complaints about overnight parking since the store opened in January, she said.
Michigan Wal-Mart spokesman Nick Infante said the company handles overnight parking and camping store by store.
“Generally, we do allow it,” he said. “Going into more and more suburban communities, those communities are asking to not have overnight parking. And we are supportive of those requests.”
RVers say they camp at Wal-mart for the same reasons people shop at the national chain: It’s inexpensive and convenient.
Wiley, the publisher of the annual “Wal-Mart Locator,” which he said sold 9,000 copies last year, said a parking lot can be better than a campground, although he said campers usually don’t spend more than one night at Wal-Mart.
RV owners are less likely to damage their expensive rigs when they pull into a large, well-lit parking lot at night than if they try to navigate a narrow site at a dark campground, he said.
In some cases, he said, pressure from campground owners has been behind laws banning overnight parking in store lots.