North

No more free camping at Whitehorse Walmart

A company spokesperson said in an email to CBC that overnight parking will end 'this summer, following several customer complaints about unsafe parking conditions and debris in the parking lot.'

Company says decision follows complaints about safety, debris in the parking lot

The director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada says RVs will soon no longer be welcome to camp in the store parking lot because customers are complaining about unsafe parking and debris. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

RVs and campers are soon going to have to find a new place to park overnight in Whitehorse, instead of the Walmart parking lot.

Anika Malik, director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada, confirmed in an email to CBC that the Whitehorse store will end overnight parking this summer "following several customer complaints about unsafe parking conditions and debris in the parking lot."

This one [parking lot] here is the busiest I've ever seen.- Bill Scott, tourist

Like many Walmarts, the Whitehorse store has long allowed campers to stay in its vast parking lot for free. And every summer, dozens of campers and RVs — many passing through Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway — do just that.

Malik says the company's policy on overnight parking "varies from store to store and depends on a variety of factors including municipal bylaws and the amount of parking required for customers."

The company has not said when the new policy in Whitehorse would come into effect, or how it would be enforced.

Bill Piper is travelling in Yukon from the southern U.S. He says he just wants a place to stop for the night. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

More than 20 RVs and campers were in the parking lot on Wednesday. Some people said they could see the company's perspective.

"I see some people really taking advantage, they get their awnings out, and their barbecues out, they are making repairs," said Suki Spears, an RVer from California. "There has got to be a limit somewhere."

Spears said she was shocked by how fast people were driving around the parking lot when she tried to take her dog out Wednesday morning.

"I think a lot of people I talk to are boondocking to save money because it is so expensive [at RV parks]." 

RVs 'like flies' in Whitehorse

Spears said they paid $40 to park with no water or sewage hookups at a local RV park. Local RV park websites list rates at between $30 and $45 per night for full hookups.

Spears also questions whether there is enough space at Whitehorse's RV parks to accommodate all the travellers going through Whitehorse.

Bill Scott is a self-described full-time RV-er from Campbell River, B.C. He says the new rules will be hard on tourists travelling up the Alaska Highway. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

"We knew there would be RVs up here, but they are like flies — they are everywhere," she said.

Bill Piper, who was also parked at the Whitehorse store on Wednesday, was visiting Yukon from North Carolina. He said he stayed at an RV park in Dawson City for $53 a night.

"That's $1,500 a month, and if you add that on top of the fuel and everything — it's way too expensive," said Piper.

He said if he wasn't allowed to stay for free at Walmart, he would find a place to park on the side of the road, even though he knows he isn't supposed to.

Piper said he just wants a place to pull over for a night — which is exactly what Walmart has provided.

"I'd rather see [Walmart] enforce the rules than just put a stop to it," he said.

Piper said he also stayed at the Whitehorse Walmart for a night two months ago, and he recognized some of the same campers still there.

"This one [parking lot] here is the busiest I've ever seen, as far as RVers go," said Bill Scott, a self-described full-time RVer from Campbell River, B.C.

He's staying in the parking lot for a couple of nights while visiting a relative in town.

He says he would prefer to see Walmart restrict the number of nights travellers can camp out, instead of stopping it all together.

"It would be pretty hard on the people travelling up the Alaska highway," said Scott. "They would park on the highway somewhere."

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