September 25, 2012 • Stacy Brown, The Sentinel
Known as a big-box retail store that has something for just about everyone, Walmart has also garnered a reputation for being friendly to the traveling camper.
But, RVers hoping to stay in the Carlisle Walmart parking lot on Noble Boulevard for an extended period of time can expect to be turned away. Or, ticketed and towed.
The store has installed large signs at the entrance of the lot reminding customers that overnight parking for RVs or trucks is prohibited.
Carlisle Police Lt. Michael Dzezinski said the rules have been in place for a long time.
“This parking enforcement isn’t anything new,” he said. “The property owners have asked us to enforce these parking regulations for RVs and tractor trailers for several years, and we’ve done so when time permitted or a complaint was received. As such, there are signs posted in each entrance to the lot that advise motorist of the parking restrictions.”
Further, Dzezinski said, enforcement actions typically involve tractor trailers that aren’t making deliveries to stores within the complex, as well as RVs that are attempting to occupy the parking lot overnight.
A spokesperson for the local store could not immediately be reached.
However, a message posted on the chain’s corporate website said, “While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”
One Walmart location that has a no-camping policy resulted in a $1.2 million RV being towed earlier this year at one of the stores near Chicago.
The policy has many drivers livid.
“I cannot even legally park my RV while being a paying customer at the Carlisle, Pa., Walmart store without being issued a parking citation by your police department,” out-of-town RV owner Charles Quinn said in an email to The Sentinel.
“Apparently, the overzealous property owner has asked the police department to cite all trucks and RV in this privately owned lot, even when they are paying customers,” Quinn said.
That the Carlisle Walmart prohibits the parking is a shame, said local resident David Hardy.
“I will be passing the word to all of my RVing friends to bypass Carlisle in the future. Not only will Walmart suffer from the loss of business from the RV community but other businesses in the area will be bypassed while RVs go to places that are more welcome,” Hardy said.
New Jersey resident Larry Socha parked his $1.2 million motor home at a Walmart near Chicago in June to attend his 50th high school reunion but, according to the Glen Ellyn, Ill. Daily Herald, his RV was towed away from the Walmart parking lot while he was running errands for his 90-year-old mother.
Socha had thought the RV had been stolen, but later discovered the store had the vehicle towed off the lot, the newspaper reported.
A spokesperson for the store claimed the manager knocked on the motor home’s door a few times before ordering the unit towed.
Socha also told the paper that the parking lot was listed in an online directory of free overnight parking lots. It cost him $872.50 to get his RV and its contents back.
The Walmart in Carlisle is likely responding to some property damage and other concerns, officials said.
“I can’t speak directly for the property owners, however I believe that their position is based on two primary concerns,” Dzezinski said.
“First, they have experienced damage to landscaping and other property as a result of trucks and similar vehicles trying to maneuver within the confines of the parking lot,” he said. “Second, the lot isn’t designed in such a manner as to be conducive to the travel and parking of such large vehicles.”
It should also be noted that when the shopping complex was initially proposed, the Borough had to grant a zoning variance for the amount of parking spaces within the center, Dzezinski said.
“Essentially, there wasn’t enough parking for the square footage of the complex,” he said.