By Chuck Woodbury
Our story in last Sunday’s newsletter titled “Is new self-service RV park the wave of the future” has already been read 102,000 times with more than 100 comments.
The fact is, the Sullivan, Missouri, Self-Park RV park is not the wave of the future, as many of those who read the article commented. The basic idea is good, one that we continue to promote: a fully-automated, self-serve RV park (actually a chain of them is needed for the idea to work) aimed at RVers looking for a safe, overnight stop with an electrical hookup (to power a residential fridge and air conditioner). In our proposal, a stay would be limited to a night or two.
Plug in, go to sleep, get up, leave.
If you’ve traveled the Ohio Turnpike you’ve seen such overnight “parks.” Insert a $20 bill into a machine and you’re set. It’s fully automated.
When traveling I-90 west of Wall, South Dakota, look for the 24 Express RV Campground in tiny Wasta. It offers pull-through sites, each with 30- and 50-amp hookups for $20 a night (it was $5 dollars a night for years, then $10 for awhile).
The new Self-Park RV park in Sullivan, Missouri, is a commendable effort, but it misses the mark. An overnight stay (16 hours) with full hookups is $39. We believe that’s excessive.
An RVer can stay for up to 28 days at a discounted nightly rate. Allowing stays that long sabotages the idea, reducing the number of available spaces for folks just passing through — and that’s the type of park that’s urgently needed. A park that tries to cater to both short- and long-term residents is like betting $20 on both even and odd on the Roulette table. You win. You lose. You cannot win.
I can tell you, and I believe you will agree, that few RVers who stop for the night at Walmart will pay $39 to sleep overnight elsewhere, no matter how “automated” the process.
And, really, who needs full hookups for one night? Installing water and sewer hookups hugely increases the cost of building a park (and forces much higher camping fees), and requires jumping through a lot more environmental hoops trying to get a permit to even build it.
The owner of this park, Jim Turntine, who also is part-owner of the small town it’s in, should have simply provided 30- and/or 50-amp hookups and a flat parking pad. A reasonable fee, we suggest, would be $20 a night for a site with 30-amp electricity ($25 for 50 amps), and $15 for dry camping, and limit the stay to a night or two. He might not make a fortune on one such park, but add others 200 miles apart along major Interstates and he’ll earn a fortune.
A major corporate sponsor could provide significant financial support. Geico Insurance already sponsors 14 rest areas in Arizona, with the little lizard prominent on the road signs. What a brilliant way that would be for the sponsor to show RVers how much they care about them. . . and their safety.
Turntine doesn’t even need to buy real estate for each location: It’s already there if he knows where to find it.
I am still willing to help publicize anyone who decides to build such a chain of safe, barebones, self-service parks. I’ll invest if it’s done right, and suspect a lot of readers would, too.
My friends Bob Zagami and John DiPietro interviewed Tim Turntine about his park on their Facebook Live program. Watch here.