By Chuck Woodbury
I just received my daily headlines from Google listing news articles about RVing posted in the last 24 hours. One, especially, caught my attention: A 66-year-old woman was found dead, lying face down in her RV at Grandma’s Grove RV Park in the Fort Myers, Florida area. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office is treating it as a homicide.
Hardly a day passes that I do not see a similar story. If I think back to about 20 years ago, when there were far fewer RVers on the road, and far fewer permanent residents in RV parks, I almost never heard of such crimes.
I can remember responding to readers who would ask me, “Chuck, is it safe to go RVing?” And I would reply, “I almost never hear of a violent crime in an RV park or campground.” I actually remember marveling at how safe RV parks were. I never, ever thought about crime when staying in an RV park.
Yes, I’m sure there was bad stuff going on, but I believe the numbers were minuscule compared to today.
I think what has happened is that most RV parks back then were occupied by travelers — tourists would stay a night or two, maybe a week, and then move on. Today, hundreds if not thousands of RV parks are occupied by full-time or seasonal residents. A good many stay in RV parks because they cannot afford to buy or even rent a traditional home. I saw this all the time in my two years of full-timing.
THERE ARE ABOUT 13,000 RV parks in American today. Based on what I observed in 2017 and 2018 when I was a full-timer, I’d guess that at least 20 percent are dumps where most RV travelers would not want to stay. They are not RV parks in the sense of “recreation.” They are trailer parks, often with low monthly rates, where people live, and the facilities are often poorly maintained.
When you put that many people together, many of whom are just getting by, it’s a far different crowd than RV tourists. They have the same problems as others who live in low-income communities, including a high incidence of crime.
There have been huge changes in the last decade in how people use their RVs and where they stay. The landscape is dramatically different than when many of us started RVing decades ago. I’m trying to make sense of it. I think maybe if I can get time, a book is in order.