As RV owners hit the road with ever-larger vehicles, a few pushing 45 feet long, a problem professional truck drivers encounter daily is frustrating vacationers: finding enough room to park and turn around their rigs.
To minimize the problem, the state of Oregon has developed the “RV Friendly” program, according to The Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore.
In a first-of-its-kind pilot program, the state agency that oversees informational signs along Oregon’s highways has decided to make travel a little easier for RVers. Yellow and black “RV Friendly” symbols have been placed on signs along a portion of I-5 between Aurora and Albany, Ore., that identify restaurants, gas stations, and tourist attractions with adequate space to park and maneuver oversized vehicles.
Run by the Travel Information Council, the program might encourage RVers to stop and spend their money instead of blowing past to the next rest stop.
For now, the Travel Information Council is adding the “RV Friendly” symbols to freeway signs free of charge.
If the test is deemed a success and the program continues, it will eventually charge businesses an annual fee to advertise with the symbol.
A dozen businesses have qualified for the “RV Friendly” designation, said Angela Willhite, technical services coordinator of the Travel Information Council. The businesses range from a Chevron Foodmart in Albany to a McDonald’s in Woodburn, Ore.
Oregon is the first state to have signage specifically for RVers, she said.
“Most states have either ignored or done little to cultivate RV tourism, and so what Oregon is doing is very welcome,” said Ron Epstein, publisher of the Good Sam Club’s Highways Magazine, which has a circulation of 1 million.
Good Sam is a unit of Affinity Group Inc., as is TL Enterprises Inc., publisher of RV Business and RVBUSINESS.COM.
To be identified as RV Friendly, businesses need to meet the travel council’s criteria, such as having 65-foot-long parking spaces with a 50-foot swing radius at both ends for easy entry and exit. Canopies must have a minimum 14-foot vertical clearance.
The travel council has discussed charging an annual fee of about $100 for the RV Friendly designation on signs, although no fees have been set. For the gas and restaurant signs along the freeway in the Salem area, the council currently charges annual fees of $310 per sign. Fees, grants, and donations are the travel council’s sole sources of funding.
Frank Brodersen, a retired real estate agent from Springfield, Ore., took the RV Friendly idea to the travel council. Brodersen and his wife, Jil, have toured 46 states in their RV. They’ve eaten plenty of sandwiches at rest stops because they didn’t know if a restaurant off the freeway had enough room to park or so they could turn around their vehicle.
“How did the idea germinate? It was pure and simple frustration,” Brodersen said.
He wonders how many Oregon attractions lose visitors because RVers are unsure about the parking situation.
Besides travelers with RVs, tight spaces present an obstacle for anyone towing a boat or moving other belongings on a trailer. Businesses don’t seem to realize the parking and turnaround issue is costing them sales, he said.
Because families don’t want to eat every meal in the confines of an RV kitchen or hang around the campground all day. That represents potential revenue the RV Friendly signs hope to send to Oregon businesses, Brodersen said.