Officials crack down on Wal-Mart camping
By JEFF CUMMINGS, QMI Agency
Customers exit the Wal-Mart on Empress Street in Winnipeg Wednesday January 26, 2011. The retailer will renovate three of their Winnipeg stores into super centres. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY)
St. Albert, Alta., bylaw officers could soon be cracking down on big box stores that allow people to park RVs in their lots to camp overnight.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said council has asked city administration to study whether permits should be issued to businesses that allow overnight parking in their lots.
The mayor said in some situations, he has seen more RVs at the local Wal-Mart than campers at nearby campgrounds.
"That's what we have campgrounds for," said Crouse. "The campgrounds serve a purpose to provide the amenities for those particular campers."
Crouse said the move by some RVers who come to town is unfair to local campgrounds, including one in town that is managed by a local charity, the Kinsmen club.
"Sometimes, they are camping in Wal-Mart, they are having an overnighter and they are sometimes having a party," said Crouse.
Duane Pilson, an avid RVer who organizes RV camping tours in Canada and the U.S., said many campers choose to stay at Wal-Mart parking lots because it's convenient and free.
"A lot of those people will usually go into the store to buy stuff and a lot of them do it, primarily, to save money," said Pilson with Calgary-based Rec-Vee Holiday Adventures.
"(The trend) is not unusual."
Pilson said he has camped at a Wal-Mart twice in his lifetime.
He once had to camp at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Montana to avoid driving in a heavy snowstorm to get back to Alberta after a camping trip in Arizona.
"It was convenient for us because they had a food establishment there and it was convenient for us because we had been driving for most of the day," said Pilson.
"We stayed there more for necessity because of circumstances that were beyond our control."
Crouse said administrators will review what kind of permits should be issued to businesses and whether or not there should be a cap on the length of time vehicles are allowed in the lots.
He said Wal-Mart isn't zoned for overnight camping in St. Albert, according to the city's land-use bylaw.
A report on the issue by administration is expected to council by next spring.
Edmonton Coun. Ed Gibbons said he has had a few complaints from residents about the issue.
However, he has no problem with retail businesses that allow camping in parking lots.
"There isn't enough campgrounds out there for people, so sometimes those campers have no choice," said Gibbons whose ward includes a Wal-Mart.