Reader comment: Shortage of RV spaces a big problem

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A reader named Roy left this comment last week to one of our articles. Like many other RVers, he is concerned about the increasing shortage of available spaces in RV parks. Here’s what he wrote. What do you think? We invite your comment.

“Growing lack of campgrounds will become a major issue. More CGs are turning all or part of their space into ‘permanent’ sites for park models or semi-permanent placement on leases or space purchase. Across the country, opening CGs is cost prohibitive. The requirements for new CGs is so intensive that no one wants to invest for little return.

“Increasing code requirements are placing many older CGs in no other alternative than to close. Older CGs may have ‘grandfather’ clauses but it also means they cannot sell or ‘upgrade’ their properties without meeting new and costly codes.

“The only thing that seems to be growing is the number and size of RV storage lots.”

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

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Zachary Hovermale
19 days ago

We live in IN and just bought our first travel trailer. We are so excited to get out with the kids, but there is a Severe shortage in campsite availability in our area! All IN state parks are booked almost a year out. Needless to say we are at a loss as to how we will be able to enjoy our purchase now. Very frustrating!

Jacque Gray
7 months ago

I have always wondered why not have travel spots where you could stop a short time, plug in to something like a parking meter, put your coins in and have electric. I presented this idea to Walmart and received no answer. I figured it probably would run into so much opposition from the local governments that it would never be approved. The spots would be wide enough to back in, open your slide and relax and/or sleep. I used to pull into roadside rests and sleep for an hour or two.

Another thought that as you asked to spend the night in the parking lot, you would purchase tokens for the meters and register your rig.

Jacque in Ohio

Scott
8 months ago

We live in South East Texas and though we are not full time we have been RV’ing for 20 years. As we approach our retirement it is our plan to travel for 1 year in our MH. So, with all that said we keep an eye out for RV parks and in our area there everywhere, I can think of 5 new ones just 10 miles from us and more on the way. in fact we see so many we ask ourselves how do they plan to fill all those spots?? Of course, I can’t speak for other areas but it sure seems that spaces are plentiful..

RV Wanderer
1 year ago

This is the only major concern we have about full time RVing. The strength of the lifestyle is NOT having to be in one place for long periods and even more important – not having to always plan out every single move.
With Prices escalating – and lack of sites – and the need now to plan, it is getting to the point that inexpensive hotels provide more spontaneity than RVing – without all the hassle. And if you don’t stay at the Ritz, the aggregate cost of the RV on an annual basis is now exceeding 365 days in various hotels across the USA. And there are a ton more hotel rooms than RV parks and sites.
If RV manufacturers have a clue about the future of their business – they need to look at this issue long and hard. Nobody buys an RV with the intention of having it parked in a storage yard. But this is where we are headed as more millennial’s buy the absolute cheapest travel trailers, suck up all the sites and party the night away while those of us that retire after working all our lives – hove nowhere to go.
This is a HUGE dilemma that NOBODY in the industry wants to acknowledge. Guess what folks – the average RVer is NOT boondocking. They want full hook ups. They want amenities. And if millennial’s and “permanent” site leases and sales continue as they are today, all those lovely 40 ft Class “A” Rv’s will remain in storage or on the dealers lot.
RV manufacturers – WAKE UP. This is a lot more your challenge than anyone else. Without space to use our RV, we are seriously thinking of selling and going back to our SUV and renting hotel rooms.

Elisa
8 months ago
Reply to  RV Wanderer

Very well said and my sentiments, exactly!

Dee Williams
1 year ago

Bought a RV park in Texas last year that had the water backflow system grandfathered, six months later state fined me for not being up to code. $10,000 later we’re up to code. They (state) changed the rules to grandfathered till sold, although when I bought it, it was good, law changed four months after I bought.

Lee Ensminger
7 months ago
Reply to  Dee Williams

Never underestimate the ability of government, federal, state, or local, to change laws to your detriment and make them retroactive, or to not honor agreements already in place. Often followed by exempting themselves from the very regulations we, as citizens, must follow. Examples, if needed, could be obtained easily from any Native American tribe…

Rod Humphrey
1 year ago

You may want to check your resources regarding the Requirement to upgrade sold parks to be in compliance with new laws. In Pa, that’s not the case if the RV park has already been zoned as an RV Park, as THE RV park is Grandfathered in, not who the owners were or are. That may not apply to expansions, as its classified as “New” construction and that expansion only will routinely have to meet newer/perhaps more stringent Standards!

Lee Ensminger
7 months ago
Reply to  Rod Humphrey

The problem with doing something like that is that it costs a great deal of money to fight the problem, with little chance of prevailing. Remember, while you’re spending your money to fight it, the governing authority has plenty of taxpayer money to oppose you. And even if you should happen to win, they’ll just wait awhile and try again. You’ll eventually give up or run out of money.

Richard Allen Farmer
1 year ago

Machelle:
I enjoyed your comment and look forward to reading about your journey as you develop the Getaway.
Curious: why “ramada’s” with an apostrophe? It is the only pluralized word you added an unnecessary apostrophe to.

AJ's Getaway
1 year ago

This is really good information. My husband and I are building an RV Campground in Heber-Overgaard, AZ. We bought 15 acres and are making all the spots pull throughs as well as 80 feet between your neighbor.
It will be a small RV campground that we can manage ourselves. 25 spots with water and Electric. We will have a dump station free for our guests, or a honey wagon will come through as needed. The reason is the costs to have a sewer from each spot is ridiculously expensive. That will be down the road when we start making a profit.
We also will have a dry camping area away from the hookup area for half the price.

Having said that, it costs more $ per night to have that privacy from your neighbors. The RV place across the street is 55+ and $48.00 a night, with 15 feet between your next RV. We will be a $54.00 a night, family friendly RV park with weekly discounts. We do not want long term campers as we want everyone to have a chance to camp for a week or two. (and to be honest, that is where your money maker is. Turn around guests, not long term residents.)
We have camped enough over the last 20 years to know who we want to cater to. We have hundreds of miles for off road trail riding just outside our property.
Here in Arizona, this location will be open from April to October so the everyone can get out of the heat!
With the price of the property, the Engineering, the permits, the electricity, water, septic, Clubhouse, ramada’s, pet run, restrooms, laundry, showers, etc…it will be a million dollars before we can even open the campground up! Hence, the reason pricing will be what it needs to be.

What else would you like to see in a campground? I’d enjoy your feedback !

Wayne Maier
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

What material will your site pads be constructed of to park on? Your pricing doesn’t seem over the top. Thank you for building a badly needed park. Looking forward to a future stay.

Steven Groves
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

I appreciate the idea of pay-as-you-go, even in an RV development. Not sure I’d forsake the sewer hookup though. Without sewer hookups, IMO it’s def more a campground boondock vs. an ‘RV Resort’. Any idea how the cell svc is up there?

Heber-Overgaard is 145 miles from Phoenix at 6,600 ft elevation (approx). It would be a good deal cooler than Phx in the summer for sure. Amenities might include water features, paved roads, landscaping.

If there’s no $$ for completing or upgrading the septic for parkwide use initially in your current plan, what would / could you do if you cut the site count to 12 for the first year? Could you put in sewer to the site??

Machelle James
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Groves

Hi Steven. Good feedback. Our thoughts are we don’t want to be an RV Resort. That implies fancy things to us. As in a pool, tennis courts , the works. We want a smaller family friendly campground that we can manage ourselves. We thought a good trade off would be for a honey wagon to come through at no cost to our guests, once a week. We will have paved roads and pull through sites. With a community area and event area. The cell service works great up there!
We are open to ideas as nothing is being Engineered yet. It’s still on paper.

Daniel Pankiewicz
1 year ago
Reply to  Machelle James

Since you are at the planning stage “level sites” with decent stormwater drainage should be on the top of your engineering list

Elisa
8 months ago
Reply to  Machelle James

Machelle – are you open yet? What is the name of your park?

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
8 months ago
Reply to  Elisa

Here’s a link to Machelle’s posts regarding the building of their RV park, AJ’s Getaway RV Park — https://www.rvtravel.com/?s=Building+an+RV+Park+from+scratch According to Machelle’s most recent post, they hope to have some spots open for this 4th of July weekend. You can also follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark. (I’m responding in case Machelle is too busy to notice your questions.) 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Richard O'Kelly
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

Live in Tucson Can’t wait for you to open. So few nice campgrounds in your area. We hope to have one of your first reservations.
Best of luck

JR Thornton
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

Two things I always enjoy about a RV Park: the first is an air compressor at the front gate. I am very mindful of the importance of keeping the tires properly aired up and in my TT it is difficult to find additional space for a compressor. Also as we travel with a pet it is always a pleasure when a dog wash is provided. Generally just a galvanized walk in tub with running water. To really go crazy maybe a hairdryer! Just two things that make a RV Park a little more special. Good luck on the project.

Nancy
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

AED machine in office, RV accessories, level dry sites, when I travel alone, gated at night is extra peace of mind.

Henry Dorn
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

Hi Machelle,

Everyone loves the outdoors; there has to be a special place in heaven for entrepreneurs like you and your husband who have land to develop and share with your fellow campers.

My suggestion would be to open earlier and close later–like March thru early Nov. Maybe a camp host could be arranged so you and your husband do not have to be on site in March and November.

Also, many RVers have limited funds and your idea of a slight discount for those who stay a few days at your water and electrical hookups is welcome. The fact that you plan to offer dry camping at half the price is very appreciated too.

Looking forward to hearing more about your progress!

Henry Dorn
Edgewood, Wa

Peggy
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

My husband and I travel with Good Sam RV Guide and we visit, update info and see MANY parks up close and personal every year. Thank you for being interested in making a quality campground – it sounds like you have a wonderful start. It is expensive. It is hard work. BUT campground owners and managers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet!

Richard Lang
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

It’s refreshing to hear that some folks are out to expand the ability of RVer’s to find a new place. If I look at my needs, there’s a few: running water, electricity and some sort of internet connection. If cell service is good, then WiFi isn’t really a necessity.

The idea of a fire pit is great – but some sort of sheltered pavilion would be welcome as well. I’m a musician and won’t even think about bringing out my instrument if there’s a hint of rain and no shelter. So even an open sided pavilion would be welcome.

A single dump station would work; a honey wagon is only necessary if people are on extended stays. How ever you arrange it, it’s up to us to adapt and it shouldn’t be tough.

Given how tight most RV locations are, you could cut your 80 feet in half and increase the number of sites (and paying guests) and no one would feel cramped – although you might have more work to do.

Judy
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ's Getaway

We already stay in Overgaard during the summer. I wish you had bought our park, sounds like you are the right people to be in the business. I wish you every success.

Terry Duffy
1 year ago

RVers need two types of campgrounds. One is a place to stop and sleep while traveling to destination and the other is for longer stays at destinations. The loss of most Walmart options has created a shortage of the the sleep option. Many campgrounds are located a good distance from the interstates. Paying $50.00 to $80.00 for a place to park is rediculase.
Most long term parks are old, run down and/or expensive. The RV option is getting harder and harder to use as an option to travel. I’m only good for a couple of more years and I’ll be done.

Marty Chambers
1 year ago

People will opt for a cabin and save $ not buying an RV if there interests are golf courses, tennis, swimming pools, etc and not traditional camping.

Greedy RV manufacturers and dealers are only interested in money, not rving. They don’t care if you enjoy camping, only that you buy and buy from them.

The list of Lemon RVs and recalls is exploding
in number. Why spend thousands on an RV when cabins are available for much less. And no long list of repairs that should have been taken care of before the RV left the factory.

And now shoddy makers and crooked dealers are crying they cannot sell their crap . Numbers of new RVs is falling and they cannot understand why.

rvgrandma
1 year ago

Where we live in the Tri-Ciities, WA the nice RV parks have gone to the 10 year rule for long term but ours grandfathered in those of us here if our RVs are nice. Moon River down the road grandfathered in those 2000 and newer but supposedly are requiring them to buy new ones this year. (will wait and see). Otherwise those moving in must be 10 years or newer. There are older parks not considered ‘resorts’ that allow the older rvs to move in for long term. Older mobile home parks want to let long term RVs in since their spots are not big enough for double wides, but their monthly rent for just the lot is more than RV parks charge for lot, garbage, cable, pool, spa, sewer, water. (suppose to be wi-fi but it never works), so why go there when we can stay and have all that for less? Plus, the city (as many do) do not allow RV parks to do monthly, so it is called long term on a 30 cycle which means every couple years we have to pay an extra month rent.

A couple years ago a guy was going to convert some of his land along the river into monthly only spots. When I was talking with him I told him about the cities ban on long term and some of the things involved in running an RV park. He never did build it. I am assuming he found the paperwork and restrictions too much.

Carol A Forrest
1 year ago
Reply to  rvgrandma

Won’t live there. No one is going to tell me what to do with my trailer or that I have to buy a new one to stay long term. Washington leans too far left for me anyway.

Edward Price
1 year ago

That’s not really a leftist position; it is actually very libertarian and also acceptable to conservatives. You own a property and you set the rules for people who want to pay you for using it. If you don’t like their money, they don’t stay. If the people don’t like your rules, they don’t stay. The only guests are those who agree to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Carol A Forrest
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward Price

Mine is still under 10 years old. Maybe you can afford a new trailer every 10 years, but some of us can’t.

Darrel
1 year ago

West of the Cascades you are correct. East of the Cascades not so much.

Einar Hansen
1 year ago

We live in New England where the season for camping is short. My wife and I were lucky enough to get a seasonal campsite two years ago after being on a waiting list for two years. Like I said the season is short from May 1 – October 15, And I would have to say that the campgrounds that we are at about 3/4 is set aside for seasonal campers. And of course the prices range from where you are on the grounds and what hookups you want or need? Short term and overnight are booked far in advance. Holiday weekends you might as well forget about it unless you book almost a year in advance!
The family that owns and runs the campgrounds does do a great job with the place. And some of them have told us that it is getting to be tough for short term folks to find places to camp. They hate turning campers away. But they do try to help by calling other campgrounds to find out if they might have anything open for a night or two? The zoning in some towns is getting harder to try to do improvements and the cost of things just go up every year.
Like I tell all our friends. The season is short and they have to make there money fast and hard!

BO
1 year ago

While roaming the western US last year, we found RV sites in some most unusual places, many in smaller towns where zoning and regulations are less restrictive.

* One such location had obviously been a used car dealer — huge lot and small office. Guy turned it into an RV park…right in the middle of community businesses (all of which were closed by 9 pm).

* Another was a modest, ranch-style home set back from the road. We saw horses in the pasture. The front yard had been turned into RV sites and the office was the closed-in garage of the house. Well maintained, and super clean (after all, it is their home) . Nice family just trying to make a living.

* Older motels in small towns don’t do the business they used to now that interstates have veered traffic away. We found several who had turned some of their extra parking capacity into RV spots.

* Fairgrounds are now getting in on the “off season” use as camping spots.

Looking past the traditional campgrounds and RV resorts reveal some imaginative use of real estate for RVers. There is a lot of land out there for those who are interested in a safe place to park without the costly amenities. Many are small businesses trying to keep afloat — seems like a win-win for us both.

Frank
1 year ago

I know that there can be a squeeze on CG sites but must also say I have only been left without a site only once in 40 years. Back in the good ol’ days you could just pull in anywhere and be assured of a spot. As the demand increased we would plan our vacation well in advance. Today, being retired and with a motorhome, we have never gone anywhere without a reservation. We don’t boondock anymore. We know our driving limits per day and schedule our stops accordingly ( usually 6 hours or 300 miles whichever comes first). Most campgrounds are pretty understanding if you have to cancel due to mechanical breakdown ( also, knock on wood, only happened once.) It also helps to have some organization memberships, FMCA, KOA, AARP, Military Vet and lastly Good Sam. Also , in the last year, we have stayed at or know of four new campgrounds around the country in our travels. They are all beautiful parks with the amenities you would expect. Many times we have traveled and didn’t have a reservation and my co-pilot would call ahead until she found a spot for the night.
I wish you all good traveling and enjoy the road.

Kevin
1 year ago

In the Atlanta metro area there is another concern. Three parks now require the RV to be no older than ten years or they are not allowed to stay. My RV is a 1999 model which I keep in excellent condition. Now there are hundreds of spaces that are no longer available to me because of this “ten years old” rule.

BO
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

The older models we have owned have been far more dependable and well built than the newer ones. We can buy an older model, well-maintained, higher-end RV for the same price we would get a new one of more moderate build. We maintain our RVs with the same devotion that we do our brick-and-mortar home and look for private sales from other RVers who have done the same. In the county in which we live, our taxes drop appreciably at that ten-year mark as well — which we love!

Russell Grassl
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

Stayed in Las Vegas at one with those 10 year rules. They asked for a photo of my 5th wheel. They said it looked fine. When I got there and looked around, there were a bunch that looked pretty bad. So I’m not sure what they really want.

Herb & Kathy Baldwin
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

We have found that when they ask on the phone while making the reservation, we just lie and tell them its newer than it really is. They never ask to see the registration and ours, like yours, is in excellent condition

rick louderbough
1 year ago

Our 1990 Chinook Ford is spotless w obvious care to every bit of it. Its adds value to most parks.

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Simply put, just lie about the age. If you keep it in good shape, nobody is going to question you. No one has ever asked to see the VIN stamp on our trailer.

theresa brown
1 year ago

dude’s right – here’s our take: we love to go fishing every weekend (yeah work during the week) we used to pass thru this tiny town, where there was a lot that a mobile home sat on for years before it was removed (this spot is 10 minutes from the boat ramp) and the space remained vacant forever… since it took us an hour to go from our house to the lake (and after a day of fishing another hour back) – we’d be exhausted.. it occurred to us, we should contact the property owner because there’s obviously existing utilities out there that could be upgraded, and if lucky, the owner might sell us a quarter acre piece to park our RV on, during our fishing weekends. wasn’t hard to find the owner, he wouldn’t sell but he would rent the space to us, for $60 a month – next step was to upgrade the utilities – over $700 to have a water tap from the road to the spot where we’d long term set up. another $1100 to upgrade the power box and have a septic outlet hooked to the sewer before we could finally park there… a beautiful spot – remind yourself however, this spot is in upstate South Carolina where everything is less expensive – have no idea how much it would cost elsewhere to upgrade the utilities to meet required code …

Bill
1 year ago
Reply to  theresa brown

Also, being in upstate South Carolina, you probably didn’t have restrictive zoning or code enforcement to deal with.

Kenny
1 year ago

The solution is really simple, the parks need to charge more so that they can be profitable.
The RV manufacturers seem to have no problem keeping prices at a profitable level and hundreds of thousands of people are supporting them annually.
Why can’tthe park owners see the light?
All the “campers” need to do is start paying a fair profitable price for the services they want.
They don’t seem to have a problem paying for the RV’s

Becky Nicholl
1 year ago

We have found that to be “not” true in Texas. There is an abundance of campgrounds and RV parks in most areas. Most leave spaces specifically for the overnight travelers and many offer a nice discount if you stay a week. The most difficult places in Texas to find a site are in the state parks. The campgrounds are small and full most of the time. If you go to the state park in the morning of the day you want to stay, most have a couple spots saved for walk ins. But who wants to take a chance on that?

Graybyrd
1 year ago

Zoning, budget cuts, and FUD are major factors that are accelerating the problem. As mentioned, restrictive zoning and increased regulation make new RV park development financially difficult. (The same problem exists for new/expanded truck stop parking.) Public campgrounds are under assault by federal, state and local budget cuts, with increased dependence on new or increased user fees to make up the difference, made worse by simultaneous cutbacks in improvements and maintenance.

An even more insidious problem is the FUD Factor (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) caused by increased homeless refugees moving into older RVs for shelter, and seeking lowest cost parking. I see knee-jerk reactions by city and county officials who respond to resident voters’ complaints by passing anti-RV overnight parking ordinances, and becoming increasingly hostile to RV site developments. As this jaundiced attitude affects public opinion, tragic decisions are made. Example: Oak Harbor, WA decided to build a new $$$Million-plus sewage treatment facility, sited on waterfront city park development. A negative public “advisory” opinion resulted in the total destruction of the adjacent municipal 80-site waterfront RV park. It was scraped to the bare ground and hauled away, and there are no plans to ever replace it.

Reservations for the 2019 season, 9 months in advance, show nearby state park campsites booked solid for the coming summer, and there is only one private RV park on the entire island, adjacent to Deception Pass S.P., virtually full all year round.

The days of loading ma and the kids in the family camper and setting out for a fun summer weekend or a vacation trip on the road, such as was our family’s experience in decades past, are now more of a pipe dream than an achievable dream. Spouse and I now pretty much restrict ourselves to local day trips in our truck camper, or we revert to catch mid-week campsites between November and March.

Henry Dorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Graybyrd

Hi Graybyrd,

Last week–in early February–before the snow hit Puget Sound here in Washington state, we took our 19 foot travel trailer to Cape Disappointment State Park (at the headwaters of the Columbia River) for three nights. Off season, the park had many beautiful spots available.

Two years ago at the same park for a June family gathering, we reserved two yurt sites and a full trailer hookup site–all next door to each other. But like you said, you have to get online and reserve these sites several months in advance.

I love Machelle James proposed campground. When word gets out (once it’s opened) I’ll bet a lot of grateful families will enjoy her and her husband’s venture.

I wish them total success.

Jim
1 year ago

In 20 14 we did a trip from Arizona to the East Coast by I-40 Eastbound and the I-10 returning westbound. In October of this past year (2018) we did nearly the same trip in four weeks.
Of the 18 RV Parks we stayed in 10 were comercial parks. and every one of them had raised their rates! Several in somewhat rural areas had raised their rates by only a few dollars.
While one of those in metropolitan areas had raised their rates by as much as $37.00 a night!
Two of of the parks we had stayed in four years ago were gone. If this trip is a snapshot of what’s happening with RV Parks throughout the U.S, than the picture the the RV manufactureres and dealers are paining to new buyers is very, very misleading…

Merikay MacKenna
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim

I keep a close acconting of all of our expenses. In five years I have seen an increase in space fees of 30% to 40%. Although we did get to use our Passport America more in the past. Many parks are dropping this much loved discount or putting on weekend or seasonal restrictions. That raised our cost.