Some people find a sense of community in their neighborhood, and some people find it among the estimated one million-plus full-time RVers1 in the United States. This mobile community is a welcoming one, with fellow RVers looking out for one another, and contributing to the economy, from coast to coast.
What this community is not equipped to handle, however, is the closure of the campgrounds that they stay in, night after night. With a declared national emergency around the COVID-19 pandemic and “shelter-in-place” orders emerging across the country, these full-time RVers need somewhere to do just that — shelter in place.
Many aren’t able to do that. This week, state park campgrounds closed in thirty-eight states, all of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds closed, and national parks are open on a case-by-case basis.
A select number of public campgrounds are closing to provide care to patients infected with COVID-19, and we are thankful for their service during this time. Increasingly, however, public and private campgrounds, where full-time RVers could safely shelter during the pandemic, are either choosing to temporarily suspend operations or are required to close by local authorities. As of March 28, over 6,958 campgrounds, RV Parks and dispersed camping areas are closed across the United States.
The result? Full-time RVers are left to scramble to find a place to spend the next days, weeks, and possibly months. While some will be able to lean on a friend or family member for a place to stay or can return to a permanent residence that they have retained, most will not have that luxury on such short notice. Many full-time travelers are over 60, a demographic that is labeled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as at “higher risk for severe illness.”
Without a place to turn, RVers may utilize public parking areas or park on streets in neighborhoods, both of which lack a safe place to dispose of waste. Overcrowding and potential conflicts over parking will pull first responders away from other, more critical tasks. As full-time RVers are forced to leave their current location, they risk increased exposure to COVID-19 for themselves and the towns they pass through.
To that end, over 13,300 people have signed a petition with Truck Camper Magazine to keep campgrounds open during this time. The petition has also been signed by 20 prominent RV industry leaders. In addition, the RV Industry Association is encouraging government leaders to “provide solutions and advocate for the need to keep campgrounds open and accessible to RVers as long as there’s no threat to the health and safety of visitors, employees, and vital resources.”2
By keeping national, state, public, and private campgrounds open, RVers will be able to shelter-in-place and limit their exposure. It also provides access to essential infrastructure like dump stations for wastewater, freshwater fill stations, and electrical hookups. Most recreational vehicles, when hooked up to campground services, provide everything that an RVer needs to isolate themselves — electricity, running water, a kitchen, a bathroom, heat, and air conditioning.
Some may argue that it’s a burden on park staff to keep the campgrounds open and maintained. In response, the Escapees RV Club encourages campers (who are physically able to do so) to offer their services as a park volunteer or in exchange for camping.3 Also, campers can pay over the phone or online, reducing the need for an in-person check-in and check-out process.
We understand that there is a concern about overwhelming medical facilities in small towns across America. We do not want to see that happen. However, by forcing travelers to move from one small community to another, we are increasing the overall risk to the traveler themselves, and to each community they pass through.
Keeping national, state, public, and private campgrounds open isn’t a matter of allowing people to continue with their vacations, it is providing the estimated one million-plus full-time RVers in the United States the opportunity to shelter-in-place so that we can do our part to keep ourselves, and our country, healthy and safe.