Friday, June 2, 2023


RV parks and campgrounds designated as essential; will save RVers during disasters

Something important to RVers happened in Washington, D.C., this week that will have a major impact the next time the country shuts down due to a pandemic or other emergency.

On Monday, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, officially transitioned the RV park and campground classification in the Commercial Facilities Sector from Outdoor Events to Lodging and simultaneously classified all temporary lodging, including RV parks and campgrounds, as essential.

Here’s why this is so important

In the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 was first labeled a pandemic, many state and local governments’ reactions effectively shut down campgrounds and RV parks across the U.S. RVers found themselves stranded, often far from home with no place to stay. Often, officials demanded that parks immediately shut their gates, forcing out long-term RVers as well as transient campers.

Local and state officials obviously weren’t ready to deal with a worldwide pandemic, and threw a legal blanket over campgrounds, forcing closures on all businesses not deemed “essential businesses.”

Officials from Kampgrounds of America Inc. as well as the RV Industry Association and National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds began lobbying governors’ offices throughout the U.S., pleading for campgrounds to be declared “essential services.” An essential services designation would allow campgrounds to continue to provide safe havens for both residential and transient campers during a designated crisis such as a pandemic or natural disaster.

The change in designation didn’t happen by chance. KOA Inc. as well as ARVC have continued to push for the essential services designation for the past two years. The groups were in Washington this week for the RV Industry Association’s “RV’s Move America” event. The week included lobbying visits with senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill.

“CISA was issuing guidance on essential business but often this guidance was simply copied and pasted in state and local closure orders,” said Jeff Sims, senior director of state relations and program advocacy at National ARVC. “We weren’t listed as essential, but we knew we should be, so the fight for our industry began.”

Over the course of the next several months, Kampgrounds of America Inc. President and CEO Toby O’Rourke and other top industry officials personally called governors’ offices across the country, advocating for state officials to include campgrounds in their essential services designations. Gradually, most states and local governments saw the wisdom of their request.

“We are thrilled that our advocacy efforts since the early days of the pandemic to have campgrounds categorized as essential businesses have paid off,” said KOA’s O’Rourke. “We strongly pushed for this in partnership with RVIA and ARVC through direct conversations with and lobbying to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).”

O’Rourke also praised “constant pressure” applied by Montana senators Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D) along with members of the Senate RV Caucus.

“This bipartisan group of seven senators signed on to a letter to CISA urging for this reclassification, and we greatly appreciated the bipartisan congressional support on this important topic,” O’Rourke said. “All in, this is a great win for the industry and an example of what can be accomplished together. This classification will allow RV parks and campgrounds to remain open and operational during future crisis situations such as health pandemics or natural disasters. In the spring of 2020, we had to advocate state by state for campgrounds to remain open. This classification will help alleviate that issue in the future if we find ourselves in a similar situation.”


Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.


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Dalene Renfroe
11 months ago

We were traveling for my husband’s work when the shut down began. Thankfully we’re able to find a place to camp each night from Georgia to Arizona. It was the first time our dogs had been to Arizona and they missed having grass. I searched and found a nearby dog park so we loaded up the dogs so they could run and play in some grass. The dog park was locked up and closed! Yes, the dog park!!

John harpel
11 months ago

Great job! This is vitally important to the rv park industry and rvers every where.

11 months ago

You mean the government actually did something that makes sense? /_ (jaw hits floor) The behavior of some of the Governors around the country was lunacy, like that one in New Mexico where she closed EVERY state park, then changed her mind and allowed them to be open for day use only to residents of New Mexico…smh

Dennis G.
11 months ago

Christmas 2020, CA re-closed all campgrounds, after they had been open in the fall. At first we were stranded, but a RV park along the road helped us out. The remainder of our trip we used BLM land and got to visit Joshua Tree during the day.

Sheryl Hendrix
11 months ago

This is awesome thank you KOA and all of those who fought for us! It was a ridiculous situation leaving many of us out in the cold.

Robert N. Cordy
11 months ago

During the early Covid phases in 2020 my wife and I were traveling home to Washington state from Texas and had reservations cancelled at 4-5 of our campgrounds. Fortunately we were able to find last minute alternatives in every case. One commerical RV park manager told us that although the county had shut them down for travellers, she could accomodate work-campers. And “coincidentally” she had an opening for an unpaid volunteer workcamper and if we were interested in filling that job (for one night), we could stay there. We accepted. As it turned out, we were assigned no work while there. Amazing!

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