Boondocking at Walmart
Ted McAfee owns the Blue Spruce RV Park on the outskirts of Prince George, B.C.—and he has a problem. Business has declined substantially in recent years as recreational vehicle (RV) owners are parking (or camping) in Walmart store parking lots for free.
The RV owners are allowed by the stores to park for free, but no facilities are provided such as electricity, fresh water, or waste water disposal. In RV slang this practice is known as “boondocking.” The practice is also made possible as many of the RVs are self-contained with their own electrical systems and with water supplies for several days.
Parking in the Walmart lots has become more appealing to owners as the prices at RV parks have risen and the cost of gasoline increased. The lots provide a safe location as they are lighted all night and monitored by security cameras. Also, the stores are a convenient source for supplies and services such as pharmacies.
The Walmart stores have an RV-friendly policy although it is not an official one. A Rand McNally atlas sold at Walmart gives directions to every store, and RV owners can purchase a store locator from the RV website rvtravel.com.
In Prince George and many other communities, the practice of staying overnight in a store parking lot is not allowed by local city regulations. Prince George city authorities had Walmart put up signs informing RV owners of the regulations. But it is difficult to enforce the regulations, especially as Walmart does not care about the practice. In addition, there is a threat from RV owners who are organized, and in the U.S. communities that enforced the local regulations were boycotted.
Meanwhile, Ted McAfee and other park owners are losing business and may close down.