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Campground owners are applauding the New Brunswick, Canada, government’s decision to take on the retail giant Wal-Mart in order to curb campouts in parking lots.
CBC News reported that Wal-Marts in virtually every city in the province — and across North America — have been welcoming recreational vehicles to spend the night for free in their parking lots, but private campground operators have complained the discount department store is cutting into their profits.
Mike Gaudet, who runs the Pinehurst campground in Moncton, said he was pleased to hear that the Tourism Ministry has been negotiating with the department store chain to discourage the practice.
Gaudet said he and other campground owners have been very frustrated because they must pay taxes and other fees to keep their businesses running — only to see them eroded by the free camping outside Wal-Mart stores.
“They’re having a big impact,” he said. “I’ve gone in there and seen as many as 12 motorhomes in there. And our campgrounds are half empty.”
Wal-Mart has also raised ire elsewhere with the practice, but it’s so popular that guidebooks and Internet sites offer maps directing travelers to camping-friendly stores across North America. Campers have been lured by the convenience of the large, easy-to-navigate asphalt parking lots, the proximity to supplies and the price.
Provincial Tourism Minister Joan McAlpine said last week that her department has been in talks with Wal-Mart to curb the practice.
Gaudet said he was pleased to hear it, because he has had no luck taking on individual stores by himself.
“I called the manager last year, and he gave me the excuse that it’s extra security for them,” he said.
Gaudet said he hopes the government will have more success. If it doesn’t, he wants the province to pass a law that restricts campers from spending the night anywhere other than a licensed campground.
Some opposition politicians have called on the province to follow the lead of Nova Scotia, which already has such a law.
Tourism officials have said they hope to have the issue resolved by the end of the season.