“RV park of the future” misses the mark

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
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. 

Self-pay machine at Ohio rest stop

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.

Nice pads, for sure. But $39 for overnight?

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.

##RVT931b

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Tommy Reeves

As long as a long-term parking agreement is not allowed. I drive around in the area where I live (Central Louisiana) & see so called “RV Park” that is full of long-term, permanent residents with no empty spaces for travelers or vacationers.

While delivering to a resident at one of those RV Parks I asked them why they lived there. I was told that at $350 or even $450 a month, one can’t rent or own a house that cheap since that includes electric, water & sewer. They go nearby I get their propane tanks refilled.

Thomas R Sloan/ Alice M Sloan

Great Idea! A good fit for those who are traveling long distance to a destination for vacation or winter sun and need a break along the way. Perfect for those who travel in an rv from place to place for work. It is not a long term “RV Park” it is a place to park the rv overnight, or a few days, providing the resources to make the amenities of the RV usable and comfortable for its occupants.

Kathy

I agree. There is a huge need for a pull in and park for overnight system. Resorts are great when you plan on spending time in an area but a low cost one night stop would be really appreciated. Even if there was one water and dump station available for an additiona fee, just the low cost pull in is ok.

Ron H.

Fees too high? I don’t see many (if any) $20 full hook-up RV sites these days. I like the concept of a simple no hassle automated park. Basic 30 amp would suffice for most travelers. A dump station should be provided for those who need it. For those who don’t carry their own water, a water fill station would be a nice feature. Extending water and sewer to each site is expensive and unnecessary. I also prefer grass or gravel to asphalt. There are many ways to keep it simple and affordable.

Shredder

The fully automated Park sounds a bit expensive for my taste. Cut it in half, and we may talk…

Stephen Pinn

There are many community parks that charge significantly less and provide the same services.
Turntine sounds like one of the individuals who push local ordinances prohibiting companies like Walmart from allowing overnight stays for the simple reason of self enrichment. His perception of “self serve” is like the self serve at a grocery store! Not much value for me lots for him.

No I think there are better ways to develop a future rest stop as that is what we often need.

Turntine needs to decide if he is building a campground for short term parking or
Long term unless he has a lot of land where he can accommodate both

Al Lefeusch

I have never needed the frills and will never need the frills. Don’t care about the pool, the showers, the playground or cable TV…. definitely don’t need an escort to my site. Whether it’s the ‘RV Park of the future’ or not, it’s my kind of park!

Darrel

We NEVER need pool, laundry, showers, rec rooms, tennis courts, fire rings, etc.

All we want is a decent size level space, electric, water, sewer, and dumpster for trash. For short term stay of 1 to 2 days just electric is enough.

Ken Knutson

We are full time and have traveled across country many times. We have a 45’ motorhome. At the end of 3 days of driving we may need to dump our tanks and get water. We do laundry and cook and take showers. To try to find a dump station at a pilot or loves (or?) even if it is available may not be accessible for us. And it will cost you $5-$10 to dump and try to get water. I would pay $25 to stay overnight and get recharged and dumped no problem. That’s basically giving saying I’m paying $15 to park there. And I can’t be hooked up to electricity and not have to run my generator which will cost me more $ and annoy someone parked next to me at a Walmart or wherever. Also we don’t care about amenities. This would be a no brainer for us. And self service? Sure thing! But not anymore than $25. And I totally agree…there should be these across the country. And have a 3 night max stay? It’s just a stop over place to get recharged not a long term resort

Reh

I would never stay for any thing over $20 to $25 a night and all I need is a 20 amp plug no water or sewer. To make money put in self serve items such as filtered water and other coin operated units and a dump station that takes money to open it and as soon as you remove your drain it closes .

Ken Kuelske

Start at Philadelphia, Rte 30 (Lincoln Hwy). Stops every 200 miles across the country to Ca.

Gary

My changes to the concept:
$24/night for up to 4 persons and 1 or 2 pets.
3 nights MAX.
50/30/20amp and water on a level concrete pad.
No sewer at site, but 2 nice level dump stations.
Reservations no more than 24hrs in advance.
Daily human supervision to ensure site upkeep, trash collection, etc.
Some visitor parking.
ENFORCE the rules.

It doesn’t have to be scenic or super wide, just a decent place to stop for a night or 2 and then on the way.

bounder

Make it a la cart, users can choose from a menu of services and pay for only what they want. Possibly a more sustainable, profitable business model which could be easily franchised.

$20 = 30 amp
$25 = 50 amp
$5 = sewer
$5 = water
$5 = cable TV
$5 = throttled WIFI (to prevent streaming)
$10 = unlimited WIFI
Day 2 – repeat

One central sewer & water set up, no need to have at each site.
No need for bathrooms or showers, both are already on board every RV.

robert

Would be glad to pay $20 a night but no more. Electric is all that’s needed so as to run ac on hot nights plus frig. so not to use propane. Walmarts are great but when it’s hot have to over night in a campground cause I do not want to run generator over night.

Chuck #3

I agree totally with Chuck. They miss the mark. When traveling on a multi-day trip on the super slab (something I endeavor not to do), I want cheap, safe and quiet when I park. You don’t get that at a truck stop and certainly not at a rest stop if you can find one that lets you overnight.

Just give me a paved slot with two white lines to park in and an electric hook up, I’ll dump sewage when I get to my destination. Done. What would I pay for that? Maybe $10 a night. Any higher I might find a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or wide spot in the road. .

Gregg Green

I continue to find it interesting that there prevails a us vs. them in relation to campground owners and their proposed greed. I suggest that R V Travel do an investigative piece on the costs associated with building and maintain a campground. Most are small individual owners trying to make a living in an industry they love. What is a fair return on investment. Are campground owners allowed to make a living wage for the long hours they put in everyday? Are they allowed to recover the utility costs and insurance costs? I think you can do a better job than just say the cost per night is too high. Truck stops and rest stops are not campgrounds. Try starting a campfire at the next truck stop you stay in.
it’s about time someone did a comprehensive story on the campground industry. Not all are big companies waiting to separate you from your cash. Yes I am a former campground owner in the southwest who did not make a fortune.

Jesse

Our 65 campground year was $42.50 a night average. Decent good rated campgrounds with amenities, local attractions and employees for emergencies. $39 does seem a little high for a parking lot spot.

Peter

“ if you build it, they will come “ and pay whatever it costs……….. or not. As much as we would all like to pay less for everything, most of the time it’s not us that suffer when a business fails. As mentioned already, if the demand for these parks is high, more will appear and competition will possibly lower prices until the owners can’t make money, then they will close up. The last few years the RV industry has been booming, filling campgrounds and parks to capacity. But things can change in a hurry. If you’ve been around long enough, you have seen campgrounds shuttered due to lack of business. Right now I don’t see much of a downside to more RV parks, regardless of what they charge as most of the places we like to go are booked months in advance. Happy Trails

JBC Cripps

oops, you may hear from Geiko. Yes, technically a lizard but per Geiko’s play on words it’s a gecko (belonging to the infraorder Gekkota). A funny fact; Geckos are unique among lizards in their ability to communicate vocally. I’m sure they would have a lot to say.

Sharon Boehmer

When we are on our way to somewhere else and need an overnight stay, Rest Areas are our 1st option, easy in/out with restroom, somewhat level and free. Our 1 factory installed battery will get us thru the night running the fridge, water pump, a couple of lights and furnace, if needed. But temps in the 80’s or higher during the summer requires at least running 1 ac, so an easy in/out automated parking area with electric would be great. $20/night would be very reasonable and something we would support. This set up would be profitable to the owner if in the right location. I like the idea of a chain of these along interstate systems, especially between major cities/destinations.