From: Roy Timberman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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As an avid RVer I have had occasion to travel all over the United States. I personally have never stayed 'overnight' in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I have stopped in rest stops for much needed sleep, doing essentially the same thing... right beside truckers and other travelers that were getting much needed rest. I then fired up in the morning and got back on the road.
Sometimes a friendly parking lot, such as a Wal-Mart would look pretty good late at night, when finding a campground and parking in a location that I am unfamiliar with thus risking damage to the unit from pulling into a tree-shrouded campground, etc. Many times I have just wanted to 'rest' until early the next AM to get up and go.
I believe that there is a happy medium to be reached here.
I fully agree that 'camping' as such should not be permitted at locations that do not have the appropriate facilities, zoning, or 'site plan' if appropriate, Wal-Mart included.
A self-contained vehicle parked on a lot is not 'camping' but is certainly 'parked' and the occupants are 'resting' prior to continued travel. Thousands of truckers do this each and every day to comply with state and federal laws. Laws, I might add, that the RV industry does not have to guide them as to how long to drive.
When does that self-contained vehicle step over the limits? I believe that time comes when one of the following occurs:
1. A unit extends slide-outs, a canopy, or in the case of a 'pop-up' erects a 'pop-up camper'.
2. Disconnects from the primary tow vehicle in the case of a trailer/5th wheel, usually leveling up that vehicle for a stay.
3. Unloads anything from the unit that is not directly done due to emergency repairs and places it on the parking lot. Chairs, BBQ, table, etc. and anything else you can imagine.
4. Parks for extended periods... over 10-12 hours say, as a guideline.
In my opinion each and every Wal-Mart should have a 'Parking Lot Information Worksheet' that is handed out to vehicles requesting to park in the lot for a time and/or made readily available by using signage in the parking lot. Such things as the parking time limit, uses of the lot, etc. should be on that signage. Managers could have available this information worksheet at the front desk, etc. Easy to hand out and easy to understand.
Perhaps no parking of vehicles for more than 12 hours will also lead to a limited time period for stopping at the lot. i.e. If you park before 9 PM then you're out before 9 AM the next day. Period. People parked well before dark (using 9 PM as an example) are the folks I would be handing out the information flyers/pamphlets to in particular. If they are in before dark, they probably had ample opportunity to find a legitimate campground. Vehicles that park for extended times are doing one thing... avoiding paying for somewhere to stay. People that park for more than one night in the same parking lot are avoiding paying for somewhere to stay.
I believe that the misdoings of a few are leading to this situation. I believe that most of the responsible RVers would not be 'camping' as defined above, but would be resting for an appropriately brief time period. Perhaps because Rapid City is a tourist area you are particularly susceptible to these problems. I can only remember one RV ever parked in the Wal-Mart .7 MI. from my home here in Gladstone, MO. As an avid RVer I did notice the vehicle because it stood out in a parking lot that otherwise had never had such vehicles.
Wal-Mart has been very gracious in helping RVers while at the same time it would appear that all good deeds will ultimately be taken advantage of. I don't believe that Wal-Mart's original intent was for RVers to 'camp'. I believe that it was for an RVer to be able to 'rest' and of course shop at their stores. Unquestionably RVers are also customers of Wal-Mart and many times replenish supplies at their stores.
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Reporter, Wal Mart article: Diane Rietman