By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Looking to get your RV off the road for a few hours of shuteye? Don’t need a swimming pool? Don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for just a few hours of “parking”? You’ll be hard-pressed to fill those needs. Walmart parking lots have become the de facto overnight spots for many RVers needing this kind of respite, but local ordinances and pressure from established RV parks have shut out RVers from many Walmart stores. Not too many RV park owners are willing to give any kind of a break to the traveler who just needs a few hours off the road, some citing the gigantic expense of developing a full-fledged RV park.
Enter the Abilene, Kansas, city commission. No, the “city dads” aren’t planning on throwing out the welcome mat in some kind of city-owned overnight spot, but one of their proposed ordinances might just provide a model for communities across the country to follow in ways that could benefit both RVers and small businesses.
The commissioners in Abilene, a little city of less than 6,500 souls, has a need. Plenty of RVers come through the community and yes, indeed, some of them need a place to hang up the keys overnight and get that sleep needed for happy – and safe – continuing travels. But existing ordinances were “messy,” says a city consultant. Something needed to be done to make the process of getting something going easier.
Abilene’s wise commissioners have redefined just what a travel trailer park is: “A campground for travel trailers, motor homes, camping trailers, recreational vehicles, camping tents and accessory service buildings and facilities for campgrounds.” Sounds like an RV park, right? Now here’s another definition: “Accessory travel trailer park.” What is it? “A dedicated parking area not exceeding three acres, for travel trailers, motor homes, camping trailers and recreational vehicles, and their respective occupants and drivers, which parking area is operated as an accessory or secondary use to a primary allowed use dedicated to serving the traveling public 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on the same zoning lot.”
If the proposal becomes law, it opens the door for the 24/7 Travel Store alongside Interstate 70 to open its own accessory travel park. The outfit is admittedly a truck stop, and certainly would never be figured as a “destination RV park,” but for the weary motorhomer or travel trailer user, jumping off the pavement, filling up the fuel tanks, and getting a few hours of sleep would be easily facilitated. And without the cost of having to develop a free-standing RV park, it would be a good add-on for the existing business.
At the 24/7, a conditional use permit would limit the accessory park to 22 sites, and limit RVers’ stays to no more than seven in a row, capped at 21 nights in a 12-month period. The city says it would also require the main facility to be open 24/7, and light up the pathway from the park to the store at night. The truck stop proposal says the RV sites would come with full hookups.
Abilene’s officials think their idea might actually become a model for other municipalities to follow. Heaven knows it’s not elegant, but it’s a simple solution, and provided the travel stop keeps the overnighting prices down to a dull roar, it could be the answer to the problems that many RVers complain about. Make it available. Keep it simple. Keep it inexpensive. Is this like a baseball field? If you build it, they will come.