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RV park owner takes aim at Walmart's overnight parking

A Whitehorse business owner is upset about tourists parking their recreational vehicles for extended periods of time in the parking lot at Walmart.

A Whitehorse business owner is upset about tourists parking their recreational vehicles for extended periods of time in the parking lot at Walmart.

Jacky Smith, who owns the Caribou RV Park on the Alaska Highway south of Whitehorse, said some of the motor homes parked at Walmart stay for weeks at a time and create messes in the parking lot.

She’s created a Facebook page called “No RV’s at Walmart,” where she’s posted photos of the offending vehicles. One RV has a pool of liquid beneath it that Smith believes is radiator fluid. Another has a generator set up beside it and a pile of dog feces not far away.

Smith said she spoke with a manager at Walmart about the second vehicle, and he told her he would ask the owners to leave. But she said she subsequently returned to the parking lot, and the RV was still there.

“Walmart has to enforce better policies and procedures,” Smith said. “It seems to me people here in Whitehorse are accepting of this, or they’re turning a blind eye because Walmart is such a huge corporation that they don’t want to push the buttons with Walmart at all.”

When the News paid a visit to the Walmart parking lot this week, there was no sign of the mess Smith described. She said the manager told her Walmart staff clean the area every morning.

Still, she said RVs should only be allowed to park at Walmart for one night, and should not be allowed to run generators.

A sign in Walmart’s parking lot designates an area in the southeast corner that is available for overnight parking.

“Walmart welcomes you to the Yukon and is happy to have you stay [sic] overnight in our lot,” it reads.

Walmart’s corporate website also includes a brief summary of the company’s policy on RV parking.

“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.”

Dave Hunt, store manager of the Whitehorse Walmart, declined to comment on the motor homes and trailers parked at his store, but said he doesn’t have “anything documented anywhere” about how long RVs are allowed to stay.

But Smith said allowing tourists to camp indefinitely at Walmart has an impact on the local economy.

“They choose to spend their time and their money at Walmart and keep going up to Alaska,” she said. “Whether you are a shop in the centre, whether you are in Main Street, whether you are out here… it has an effect on our economy and us as people.”

Smith said her RV campground is doing well, but in general, business at Whitehorse RV parks “could be so much better.”

“We can definitely go on with Walmart doing what they’re doing,” she said. “But hell, we could put in more sites here if Walmart would get rid of the people off that site.”

The Caribou RV Park currently charges $42 a night for RV camping. Wilfried Lachmann, who parked his camper van in the Walmart parking lot when he arrived in Whitehorse on Wednesday, said it’s not reasonable to expect tourists to pay for campground accommodations every night.

“I understand the business people, but it’s difficult,” he said. “All the motor home owners, they are not rich people.”

He said his camper van is 17 years old, and has racked up 330,000 kilometres over the years. He shipped the van to Halifax from Germany, and he and his wife have been travelling across Canada since May 12, making their way to Alaska. He said they stay in campgrounds on some nights, but not all the time.

“In many cities, the best address is Walmart,” he said. “It’s free to park. You can buy everything, you have everything. If you pay every night 20 to 30 dollars for a campground, it’s a lot of money in the month.”

But Smith had strong words for those who say they can’t afford to stay in campgrounds.

“Don’t go on the road then. Stay at home and have a picnic in the park. If you’re going to go on the road, expect you’re going to pay for services throughout the towns and help every community along your road to Alaska.”

Contact Maura Forrest at