Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
As I travel and hear from FMCA members, I find that many of them are concerned that RVers parking in retail establishment parking lots are abusing the concept of “parking,” and that their behavior is jeopardizing the opportunity for the rest of us to park at these facilities when we want to rest and relax before continuing on our motorhome journeys.
“Camping” is a totally different concept and should never be done in retail establishment parking lots. In December 2001 I first wrote an “Executive Director’s Commentary” about the issue, and it is still a good message today. What follows is an updated version of that column.
Quite frequently we’re asked what FMCA’s policy is regarding members spending the night in the parking lots of retail establishments. Former FMCA president Charlie Atkinson, L10327, addressed this issue in his May 2000 magazine column, and he even quoted a Wal-Mart spokesperson asked about the company’s philosophy regarding this practice. The company spokesperson said, “While we don’t offer hookups, etc., that RVers get at a campground, Wal-Mart very much values its customers. RV travelers are considered some of our best customers. We do permit RV parking as we are able. This varies store by store, as local regulations permit. If regulations or city ordinances prohibit it, we abide by the law. We also must consider (available) parking lot space.”
I also would like to discuss this topic and give some details about what FMCA would deem acceptable and, on the other hand, not acceptable. First, some definitions:
Camping versus parking. Camping occurs when we set up our motorhomes and use all of their supplies and accessories to support that function. Camping means setting up a campsite with awnings and slideouts extended, jacks down, lawn chairs and barbecue grills out, pets on a leash, and bicycles and sports equipment available. Parking means only one thing: stopping to rest.
FMCA is not supportive of camping in retail establishment parking lots. Camping should be done in a campground or a state or national park where one has a site, and facilities are present to support the camping experience.
Unlike owners of other types of RVs, motorhome owners usually can dry camp for days without the support of electrical and water hookups. However, we should never look at this independence as a justification to “camp” in the parking lot of a retail establishment.
Over the years, several well-known retail establishments have become supportive of our lifestyle and have permitted motorhome owners to park in their lots overnight while en route to their destination. I don’t believe that the retailers intended to turn their parking lots into campgrounds but rather to give RVers a place to rest.
Some motorhome owners have told me that the retail establishment managers don’t care if we put out our awnings, drop our leveling jacks, and use our slideouts in their parking lots. My answer to them is that retail establishment employees have been trained to accommodate customers, not to be negative. However, when they are asked for permission to park overnight in their lots “” and they always should be asked “” they will advise us if we can legally do so.
You see, the local retail establishments cannot vote on local ordinances that would impact our use of retail parking lots overnight. The voters are the people in each community who witness the abuses with their own eyes and respond by asking local officials to pass laws to eliminate this type of behavior.
FMCA is not the only RV owners association that is dealing with this issue. Cathie Carr, president of the Escapees RV Club board of directors, and I have discussed what we believe to be the right of every RV owner to use his or her self-contained motorhome in a manner that is appropriate. The Escapees endorse the same standards that I have discussed here. FMCA joined the Escapees and several other RV clubs in adopting an etiquette letter. A copy of the “RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy: Overnight Parking Etiquette” letter appears on page 16 of this magazine. It also is available on FMCA.com’s Motorhome Rights channel “” www.fmca.com/motorhomerights.
The letter’s purpose is twofold. First, it explains to all of us FMCA members just what we should be doing when we accept the generosity of retail establishments. Second, the letter can serve as a reminder that members can place under the windshield wipers of any RVs whose owners may be jeopardizing the privilege.
Consider the “RVers’ Good Neighbor Policy: Overnight Parking Etiquette” letter as an opportunity to guide you in your travels and also as a way to inform others who may jeopardize this privilege that we currently enjoy at many locations.
In conversations with others, I have described parking in retail establishment parking lots as “destination en route parking.” By that I mean that when we as motorhome owners are traveling from one destination to another, all we are interested in is getting off of the highway and resting, without going to the trouble of unhooking our towed car and setting up camp. Once we arrive at our destination and plan to stay awhile, it is campground time, not parking lot time.
Let’s spread the word to all RVers to act accordingly as they travel before we lose the freedom and benefits that our self-contained vehicles currently afford us.