First-of-its-kind self-service RV park. The wave of the future?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris
As the sun begins to fall, you not only see it, but feel it. If you’re piloting your motorhome or tow vehicle down the highway, it’s that old body clock telling you it’s time to get off the pavement and relax before hitting the hay. But like many RVers, it’s not always easy to find a place to park the rig, at least not without a reservation at an RV park. There are plenty who respond to the beckoning Walmart sign and pull into Wally’s parking lot. But for those who “get their kicks” on Missouri’s part of Route 66, there’s a new overnighting game, and it’s not Walmart. However, unlike Walmart, there’s a price tag.Southwest of St. Louis, on what’s also known as Interstate 44, is the tiny burg of West Sullivan. The town has the distinction of hosting what may well be the first self-service RV park in the nation. Tired out? Don’t need a lot of “flash and splash” but just a place to park the rig and hook up to utilities? Then RV Self-Park might be just the place for you. Roll in, park it, swipe your credit card, and hook up to water, electric and sewer. Need a good internet connection? You’ve got one. If you “plan” your trips, you can also reserve one of the 24 sites – all of which are wide, clearly marked, and pull-through, by the way.

The brains behind the new-wave RV park is Jim Turntine, himself an RVer who’s personally experienced the difficult drama that RVers can find themselves in at the end of the day with no place to stay. Turntine wanted to make a place where RVers could stop, have their needs met with ease and get on with their travels. Turntine says, “Our goal is to provide the most stress-free parking experience possible.” If a lack of security adds to stress, then relax. RV Self-Park is well-lit and loaded with security cams that keep a watchful eye open 24/7.

And what about cost? A 16-hour layover runs $39, but an additional $10 will buy you a full 24 hours. Like it here a lot? Rates drop the longer you stay, down to $35 a day from two to six days, then down to $32 per day for a week to 28 days. Those rates accommodate two, two-legged guests, and one four-legged one (provided the pet is less than 15 pounds). Kids under 3 are free, but additional older guests and additional pets run $5 a head.

While Turntine’s project is in the “soft opening” phase at present, he’ll soon have the fully automated payment system in place. Will the future mean more self-parks? Jim says a “massive” expansion will happen if the concept takes off, but even if it should go slowly, he fully plans to open more of these “in-and-out” RV oases in the near future. He’s talking about franchises as well, for those who are interested.

Will the concept fly? Here’s our personal opinion: For the big rig RVer who needs full hookups, this might be just the ticket. But those of us who can easily dry-camp, $39 to simply park off the road overnight is too steep. We have proposed a business almost identical to this one, but we believe it can be profitable to its owner charging no more than $20 a night. We’d also limit stays to a day or two to help ensure space is available for RVers just passing through.

For folks with discount campground memberships like Passport America, you might easily be able to get your full-hookup sites for quite a bit less than $39.

Still, there’s something to be said about the spirit of competition. Should RV Self-Park really take off, other knock-offs might well try to jump in at a far lower price point (our hope). Regardless, for those with the need, a network of RV Self-Parks may be just the ticket on their way across the country.

All photos courtesy RV Self-Park

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jeff
8 months ago

I don’t think people are going to find this offer too attractive. In Michigan I stayed at a park in a small town (forget where) that offered a gravel pad with picnic table. No power or water at site with 2 night limit for free, then $12.00 per night with a total maximum of 7 days. For an addition $3.00 a dump station and fresh water was available near the exit. This was all on the honor system. I used the vending machines and the drinking fountain. I also picked up after my #50 Labrador.

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago
Reply to  jeff

Now THAT’S cool! Was it crowded?

Barry Sigman
8 months ago

So for a 24 hour stay it’s $49.00??? Is it just me or does that seem a little expensive?

Bill
8 months ago

Something close to a KOA Journey. I like the idea for a 1 or 2 night stop over. When we’re destination bound we usually stop for 1 night, 2 nights, 1 night, etc along the way. We do laundry and shopping on the 2 night stops.

Washer and dryers might be a nice addition.

Larry Basham
8 months ago

Good idea but for that price there should be a bath house added, a game room….

Wherler
8 months ago

Walmart parking lot is free !
Start up my generator got all i need !

Rich
8 months ago

i like the concept but waaay too expensive. we encountered a semi-automatic park a year or so ago…just don’t recall where. u make a reservation online , pay and receive a gate code. all FHU pull thru sites. don’t recall the $ but i think it was less than $39.

rvgrandma
8 months ago

Reminds me of self service registers at stores – you pay the same price but have to do all the work yourself.

Joel and Betty
8 months ago

I would gladly pay to stay where there are no dogs at all.
And there were some amenities……we do not drive all day.
250 miles a day is enough for us in our 28′ class A.
This concept not for us.

hclarkx
8 months ago

Some RV’ers may need full utilities, but I’d venture most of us don’t for a one-night stay. I’d pay $15 for no utilities, $20 if there’s a dump station and place to top off fresh water. Electric only sites in many public campgrounds fill up quickly. Maybe a range of sites from no-service dry camping for $15 to deluxe for $35.

If the idea is to offer a lower rate because the place is unmanned, the rate has to be lower than $39; most rural manned campgrounds are less than that.

Dave
8 months ago
Reply to  hclarkx

i Believe yo have the right idea. A range of options and prices. The concept is a good one!

Fred Gross
8 months ago

I’ve talked to people about this concept before. Such a site say every 150 miles +/- along major RV routes with easy off – easy on access and just far enough back not to be very loud. But I’d rarely pay $39 for a simple overnight spot. Get it down to $20 to 25 and it becomes attractive. You could make bath house access extra. Second pet under 15lbs, get real! May be a third pet extra. Just provide long level pull through site pads, gravel or paved, I don’t really care. Provide a very simple online reservation process and site availability display.

Allan Cardinal
8 months ago

Not new idea. Some Nova Scotia provincial parks have been self service for some years.

Esther McBride
8 months ago

What? 1-4 legged guest under 15 pounds? Every person I have met on the road has has 2-four legged family members with them and a lot are big dogs. Price is too high for a parking lot off the highway. It’s a good concept and I would consider this for an over-night stop IF the pricing was different and furfamily was 2 at any size. Charging for each child over 3 for an over-night stay? At this time I would pass it up and use my Passport America or Thousand Trails pass.

URaRLfrtSMLR
8 months ago

Cline’s Corners in New Mexico on I40 $20/night for full hookup.

Debbie L
8 months ago

We enjoyed the many self-service full hook up RV parking spots in Red Bay, Alabama. Cost is flat rate of $20/night or $100/week in the ones we used regularly. We thought it was brilliant and actually looked into trying to get one going in our “home” base city in Virginia. Sadly, ground was just too expensive. We have since stopped full time RVing. We think it has merit and especially once the automated payment method is used.

Pat Mitchell
8 months ago

What if the park is full and you go thru the gate after a credit card payment?

Peggy Coffey
8 months ago

Nope. Too expensive for nothing but the spot and we don’t have a microscopic dog.

Ken Coley
8 months ago

Too expensive for what you are getting.

Mike and Heidi
8 months ago

Not really a new thing…. Ohio’s Turnpike has self service RV only parking with Electric and a convenient dump station at a few of their service plazas…

Claudia
8 months ago

So it’s basically just another campground, but self-serve if space available. Meh. And a hard no for us with that ridiculous 15 lb pet restriction. I’ve never understood that since it’s those little dogs that are generally the serial barkers and growlers. Our Great Dane never says a word and sticks to us like velcro, but wouldn’t be welcome. So, NO.

jeff
8 months ago
Reply to  Claudia

I agree with everything you said but what does meh mean?

bob
8 months ago

This isn’t a new concept. There have been multiple of these in Red Bay, AL for years now.