Are more “bare bones” RV parks and campgrounds needed along well-traveled highways to discourage RVers from camping overnight at Wal-Mart, Flying J Travel Plaza and Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lots?
That’s tough to say because it appears difficult to convince RVers that they should pay to stay overnight at a campground when they can stay for free at a Wal-Mart, Flying J or Cracker Barrel.
Overnight camping by RVers at Wal-Marts and other businesses has driven a wedge between RV owners and many campground operators and their associations.
“We wonder why the campground owners feel we have an obligation to keep them in business,” Max Durbin, chairman of the Government and Legislative Committee of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) told Woodall’s Campground Management.
Basically, the FMCA and the Escapees RV Club believe Wal-Marts and other businesses that allow RVers to park overnight on their properties are providing a valuable service. The RV owners organizations believe it is better to allow RV drivers to park their rigs overnight in a shopping center parking lot than have them search for a campground when they are too tired to drive any farther.
Wal-Marts and other businesses fill a need because “there normally are not enough campgrounds near where I want to spend the night close to the highway with the services I seek at a reasonable price,” Durbin said.
Jim Rogers, president and CEO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) agrees, “The industry has got to respond to what the camper needs. If campers need a safe, quick, reasonable overnight place to stay, we’ve got to provide it.”
But campground operators who have tried to fill the need feel frustrated.
For example, several years ago, Clyde Morris, owner of Morris Meadows, a 300-site campground near Baltimore, developed five late arrival sites with 50-amp hookups. The sites were used until a Wal-Mart opened nearby. Now, Morris’ late arrival sites are rarely used but RVers camped at the Wal-Mart often call him to ask where they can dump their holding tanks.
Wytheville KOA Resort Campground in Virginia also had a lot of business from snowbirds headed to Florida, until two Flying J’s and a Wal-Mart opened nearby. “We were building a nice winter business and they just totally tore it apart because you can’t compete with free,” said Donna Metzger, owner of the Wytheville KOA.