The Wal-Mart policy of free overnight RV camping has come under attack across the U.S. as cities increasingly ban the practice because of neighbor complaints of property damage, according to the The San Luis Obispo Tribune in California.
Out of 3,400 Wal-Mart locations across the country, more than 340 of the stores don’t allow overnight parking, according to the Web site www.freecamp grounds.com. And that list is becoming longer each day, with bans coming because of new city ordinances, complaints from nearby businesses or because of unruly campers, the paper reported.
Among the communties cited by the paper that have cracked down on the practice are Paso Robles and Arroyo Grande, both in central California, which have long banned motorists from camping in places other than designated campgrounds. “Paso Robles does not have a problem with overnight campers,” said Sgt. Bob Adams, noting that the ordinance is mainly to keep people off public streets and parks, not private property. “We do have sporadic problems with people using it (Wal-Mart) as a campground (and) not passing through.”
The purpose of the ordinance in Arroyo Grande, which was passed before Wal-Mart was built, is to make sure people don’t stop and camp all over the city, said Arroyo Grande Police Chief Rick TerBorch.
“We want to maintain a certain sense of quality of life within the city,” he said.
Still, some people continue to camp in the Wal-Mart lots despite the ordinances.
Gene, a Texas resident who declined to give his last name, told the Tribune he’s a regular at Wal-Mart parking lots. He pulled into the Wal-Mart lot in Paso Robles on a recent Thursday evening to escape the cold weather in Morro Bay, where he had been camping.
He owns an atlas sold exclusively by Wal-Mart that lists store locations in every state.
“Wherever you are, you can go coast to coast, and stay in a Wal-Mart,” he said.