Will new Walmart concept kill overnight RV parking?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Late last year a YouTube video was released that caused quite a stir among some RVers. The producers sounded an alarm that plans by Walmart’s corporate planners would put the spell of doom on the future of overnight RV parking around the country. The big event that started it all was the October 2018 reveal of a new plan called “Walmart Reimagined.”


walmartreimagined.com

The idea behind the “Reimagined” project is to take some of Walmart’s stores with large parking lots and re-envision them as town centers. Some would have walking trails, restaurants and coffee shops. Some might have a movie theater, even a bowling alley. Other possibilities included taking some space inside existing Walmart stores and creating, say, a food court, to attract more business. Of course, the outside projects would be the ones that would concern RVers. Tie up parking lot spaces with green belts and boutique stores – that means less space for the passing motorhome and travel trailer set.

But just how big a deal is the new concept? Walmart’s own website that promotes the plan gives one a pretty good idea. Says a banner on the site, “Welcome to the future vision of the Walmart experience. It’s the Walmart experience you’ve come to expect and so much more. It’s Green Space, Food, Beverage & Entertainment all in one location.” Did you read the fine print? “Future vision.” From what we can see, this rollout is a trial balloon from Walmart corporate – indeed, most of the “Reimagined” website appears to be a major reach-out to potential tenants of these sites.

In all, Walmart’s planning sets just a handful of locations for possible development. Where are they? In Arkansas: Rogers. California: Long Beach. Colorado has Loveland. In Iowa: Windsor Heights. Missouri locations include Lees Summit and Springfield. Oregon would host in Gresham. Texas has three: Bryan, Garland and Temple. Finally, Washington shows two potential locations: Tumwater and Shelton. Of those suggested sites, only one is operational, Temple, Texas. And under construction? Bryan, Texas, Loveland, Colorado, and Tumwater and Shelton, Washington.

Yes, it’s possible that Walmart may find this trial balloon does more than just float – maybe the idea will take off like a rocket. Only time will tell on that. Regarding potential development Walmart told one media outlet, “The process ultimately depends on identifying the right developer, partners and communities that welcome the type of innovative development we envision.” And when we inquired about the potential of more of these developments and their potential impact to the RVing community, Walmart’s media representative responded, “The Walmart Reimagined concept is an exploratory concept. We have identified a handful of potential locations as examples of where the Walmart Reimagined concept might be possible but are still too early in the design process to discuss potential project details.”

Adding to this uncertainty, some of the locations that Walmart had planned for potential development were already in “no overnight parking” status. For example, the location in Loveland, Colorado, under construction to be a “container park,” has not allowed RV overnight parking since at least 2014. Other potential development locations are near other Walmarts that allow overnight parking. Springfield, Missouri, is an example of that. Their Campbell Avenue location is in the running for development of the “Reimagined” concept, but there are seven Super Centers in immediate metro area; of those, six allow RV overnight parking, according to the app Walmart ONP.

And comparing the number of Walmarts in the U.S. to those suggested for conversion to the new concept also helps to put things in perspective. As of last October, across the country there were 4,553 Super Centers, discount stores and Sam’s Clubs up and running. Internet resource walmartlocator.com suggests that about a quarter of Walmart locations fall into the “no overnight parking” status. Walmart’s own statement on the matter says that as a rule, RVers are more than welcome to overnight at Walmart stores, subject to individual store manager’s direction. Of those that don’t permit overnighting, it’s often not a matter of the store not allowing parking, but rather local ordinances that prohibit the practice. In other cases, the company may not own the parking lot, and the lot owners have put the kibosh on RV parking.

Still, RVers and, shall we say, “others,” who overnight on Wally’s lots can have an impact. It goes without saying that a few thoughtless folks can spoil it for the majority. Staying for more than one night in a row on a given store lot can create big image problems. Dumping trash or holding tanks is an obvious problem-creator. So don’t put out your awning, your lawn chairs, or fire up the barbee – just park, sleep, shop and go. We know that others have suggested that rolling out your slideouts should be ixnay. We take a tempered view of that – if the lot is crowded, putting out slides does, indeed, take up more space. But as some RVers know, trying to stay in the rig with the slides retracted is nearly impossible. Try and find a spot where putting out your slides won’t be an issue, say on the margin on the lot.

Being a “good neighbor” when visiting may go a long way to keeping already available spots open. Spot some trash on arrival? Pick it up! Some have even gone so far as to send a “thank you” card to local managers after overnighting, mentioning how much they appreciated being able to stay overnight, and the convenience of being able to shop during the stop. It doesn’t seem like much, but business people take notice. As to the impact on RVers by the new “Walmart Reinvisioned” program – at this point, it looks to be more of a tempest in a teapot than a real problem.

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Norman Knight

As a touring Australian (in hired motorhome) I find the Walmart discussion a little difficult to understand. We have travelled for 5 mths in two trips and only stop in cities and towns to get supplies. Most of the time cities are avoided as one city/town is the same anywhere in the world. Not so your National Parks, State Parks, BLM’s etc. Get out of the cities and Walmarts and enjoy your beautiful countryside before regulation locks the place up as has happened in Australia

Seann

a lot of their parking lots now have become so tight with islands and everything else in the entrance ways that it’s hard to get a larger travel trailer or fifth wheel in

Kat

Except for City Ordinance not allowing overnight parking, each Walmart manager decides if it allowed at their store. All it takes for the store to change their policy of allowing overnight is some idiot to dump their holding tank on the ground and the cost to the store to clean it up. Also, you will never see Walmart charging a small fee, tracking or any means of verifying. To do so would put them in a position of being responsible. Be thankful for the few that still allow an overnight and treat them with respect.

Mike

We are fulltime rv’ers. I have not and will not ever stay in a Walmart parking lot. I understand that if you have made a reservation at a park and you arrive early there may not be any other choice but most of the rv’ers we see at Walmart are the people to cheap to pay for a site at a park. We have even talked to a couple that were even to cheap to stay at a state park with their discount. They said why pay when Walmart is free. This is why alot of the Walmarts no longer allowed you to stay more the a couple of nights. So long and short of it is I am all for closing off the parking lots. I would rather have more choices to shop and eat. We are all for the
new concept.

Bryan

Many Wal Marts are becoming far to dangerous to overnight in due to crime and some are being over taken by overnighting 18 wheelers. I am very careful about which one I would consider stopping in. There are maybe 6 in all of Texas that I would consider safe and most of them are in very small towns, like Halletsville or Ballinger. Most of the locations near major interstates are no place you want to be at night.

Vanessa

I shopped at the Walmart in Gresham OR (actually in an area called Wood Village) and the parking lot is full of cars every time I go there. Camping World is basically next door. There isn’t anyplace for them to expand so I don’t see how that could happen there. This is not an area where public transportation would reduce the number of drivers going there.

Donald Fredericks

Regarding Walmart killing overnights. When there is an RV related event in the area many RVers need an early day and use Walmarts. It should be remembered we are their guest and do not have an unrestricted right to park there. There is also the freeloading homeless who do not care where or about good neighbor RVing. I have seen so many jammed in that there was a major shortage of spaces for auto customers. City counsels only care about local residents first and think their regulations benefit the whole of residents. They can easily forget that RVers are stocking up and filling up to spend millions of dollars at that local event over the next week.

Walmart can be best be served by setting their own reasonable limits and dedicating those areas to accommodate RVers. Let us imagine each Walmart set 10-15 pull through s for RV use only. No services,restricted to one slide and no unhooking. 18 wheelers can park in the loading zone of the store for those servicing the store. All other 18s can use truck stops which is set up for them. This will control the running noise problem. Charge a $25 dollar deposit to register a spot which is taken off your purchase for store merchandise. Out of towner’s can call in advance to receive assignment and charge deposits for spaces. Then they will know where they need to go in advance for parking. Walmart could set up a single spot to a call-center to take reservations for as many as 50 participating centers in the area. A two night max limit would be appropriate. By having paid reservations the freeloaders are prohibited and know they are not welcome. This simple process supports good customer relations and provides a means to work within city regulations.

A local tow service could contract to remove violators. Store security can support the local PD for removals and controls.

Together good RVers and Walmart can work to the benefit of the city as well.

ED

There is a sign posted in a Florida Walmart stating that there is a Florida state ordinance prohibiting overnight parking in a non-campground establishment.

ShaRon E Conway

My husband and I are both 72 yrs old. We used to stay at WalMart when we were in our late 50’s but not anymore. Elderly couples are targeted too often for us to take a chance. We carry no weapons and feel safer staying in a campground for the night. So, we plan our day of travel to begin early (6 AM) leaving home or a campground and ending our travel day after about 8 or 9 hours (350 to 400 miles) max.

Steve Barnes,Kamloops, BC

WALMART PARKING
Last October when the article about Walmart converting some parking to retail and barring RVs, I like many RVtravel.com readers expressed our concerns to RVT and to editor Chuck. Individual RVers thanking individual store managers when there are 4 or 5 thousand North American stores and 100,000 or so of us just does not cut it.

Perhaps we should approach the 5000 stores through their one representatives(sic), head offices in Mississauga, Ontario and Bentoville, Arkansas. We need to be united through our own one representative. RVT has said it is expanding its role. Perhaps it will take this on as one more project, perhaps with Russ, the author of the Walmart article, or Chuck’s as our one representative.

This may seem like just too much to expect RVT to take on in addition to all its other projects. To show our support for this project those of us who are concerned might, in addition to our regular financial support, contribute an extra $10 or $25 earmarked to the “Walmart Project”. In addition we should provide written input of the dozens reasons Walmart, Cabelas/Bass Pro, Home Depot and Cracker Barrel are important to us and not a threat to commercial parks or municipalities.

But first, show your support in writing to this column, to Russ and to Chuck Woodbury. Hopefully RVT will respond.

editor@rvtravel.com
russ@rvtravel.com

Steve Barnes
Kamloops, B.C. Snowbird
Destin, Florida

January 5, 2019

Jim

People who use Walmart should be good, but so many have no respect, leave crap behind, stay long periods of time, and many are starting to unhook and put out slides. This wrong and is going to ruin it for people who do follow the rules. Just saying……….

John

Even without the changes to Walmart’s intentions, you can’t park at a lot of Walmart stores any more because the city’s are passing laws against parking overnight any where in the city. How can we keep the government from controlling everything in our lives?

Roy

In most cases, WalMart could not charge for ‘camping’ or renting ‘spaces’ without obtaining whatever ‘campground’ or ‘RV use’ permits are required in their area. WalMart and casinos are the favorite target of campground owners who go to the city/county officials to complain about losing business to ‘free parking’ sites … and it works.

Other comments about WalMart not owning the parking lot property is also correct. Implied insurance liability is also a concern. The huge growth of ‘homeless type’ RV encampments is another issue that has become a plague to temporary parking for a quick rest.

As the RV population explodes, so will the disappearance of places to park the 40+ foot 5th wheelers with 20+ foot tow vehicles and 5 slideouts that just MUST be out in order to move around inside.

rvgrandma

Our local Walmart use to always have an RV or two parked there. Some were overnight, some a couple days. Then they tore the USA gas station out and that parking lot was used. Was good because there was no way to interfere with traffic because 3 sides were blocked. Then, people in old beat up RVs and van started to stop by. They set up tents at one time looking like a small tent city! Trash everywhere even when they left including blowing across the parking lot. RVers moved to the parking lot to separate from themselves. Now the area is fenced off so no one can use it. I am thinking this store has banned all RVs because I have not seen any parked in the parking lot for weeks now. So sad.

Neil Glenn

When I’m travelling, I DO generally stop at Walmarts enroute to stay ONE night, on my journey. I ask the manager for permission, do not extend rooms, etc, and generally buy $100 or so worth of groceries to replenish. Why? Because these Walmarts are on my route, and are a less noisy stop than truck-stops, for one. And, Walmarts have patrols, keeping shoppers safe!! I would hate to see this relationship end! However, there ARE other supermarts who would LOVE to take my money, remember!

Mark Gaunt

Walmart doesn’t’ owe RV’ers free overnight parking. I don’t shop there let alone park there.

John

Look for free parking to disappear. Too, there are too many contingent liabilities to ignore the ramifications. Someone who is a flake will no doubt sue WM and that will be the end of that. Freeloaders are, all too often, not so well behaved.

Donna Gibson

Stayed at various Walmart parking lots always asked the manager for permission to stay the night. Always purchased food and supplies there. Never had a problem most have a designated area for RV’s. Sometimes we were the only RV in the parking lot.

Cary Nickel

Honestly, I’ve spend exactly one RV night in a WalMart parking lot. And though the security staff obviously meant well, they drove around the RV on their “rounds” incessantly with their yellow cab-top light flashing and engine running..waking us us up on a regular schedule. Now that I think of it, it might have been meant to subtly, but perhaps rather impolitely, state “It would be better if you leave.” Either way, I have never stayed in a WalMart parking lot again, and have no plans to in the future. I’d rather dry-camp in the boonies.

If their vision comes to fruition, I won’t miss WalMart “camping” in the least.

Greg

One of the paybacks to Walmart for me staying in their parking lot is, I always stroll through the parking lot and pick up litter. This deed along with buying whatever I need in their store helps them as a business and me for the convenience of having a place to stay for the night and picking up supplies at the same location.