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Winter, which is tourist time in Florida, means lots of people rolling through from other states in RVs, from campers to motorhomes.
But across the state, RV campground space is dwindling as developers purchase RV parks near waterfront land and in suburbia, the Miami Herald reports. Even as more and more people buy RVs and drive them to South Florida, there are fewer and fewer places for them to park, according to the newspaper.
Altogether, about 15 RV campgrounds have closed in Florida in the past two years, according to the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Though the Florida Keys boast plenty of campground space, there only are about 15 private campgrounds left in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
“As the cities grow out, they just buy out our property. … We lose RV parks,” said Joe Striska, president of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
A Wal-Mart parking lot in Florida City regularly serves as a pit stop for travelers going to and from the Florida Keys who don’t want to shell out higher winter campground fees or can’t find space there.
Connie and Bruce Schmidt of Bethlehem, Pa., parked their 1991 Winnebago Chieftain at Wal-Mart for two days last week. They asked a security guard for permission, in turn volunteering to collect paper trash strewn across the parking lot.
“We were going to head to Key West, but we couldn’t really find a place to stay,” Bruce Schmidt said. “We said, we better stop here because there are other people here.”
Eight RVs gathered in the far corner of the parking lot in recent days.
“We are happy to host them in our parking lots whenever we can,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Suzanne Haney, adding that some laws don’t allow overnight parking.
There are other options, some of which have varying degrees of luxury, depending on the price.
Paradise Island RV Resort in Fort Lauderdale, a private campground, has 232 spaces and charges $36 during busy season, more than the average $20 price at county parks. It offers a recreation hall, swimming pools and DSL Internet access, which county parks don’t.
“We are booking for next year,” Paradise Island Assistant Manager Steve Nelson said.
Four Broward County-run parks and Larry and Penny Thompson Park in South Miami-Dade offer the needed amenities to camp out in an RV. And while state parks all over north, central and southwest Florida have RV campground access, none exist between Hobe Sound in Palm Beach County and Key Largo.
Thus, South Florida’s few RV parks are booked months in advance from November to April, which coincides with the arrival of American and Canadian snowbirds.