Staying overnight in the Wal-Mart or Cabela’s parking lots in Mitchell, S.D., has become so popular that, on some nights, there are as many or more campers in those lots as there are in any of the six campgrounds in and around Mitchell.
During the past week of nights, staff at Mitchell’s The Daily Republic counted a total of 135 towable trailers or RVs camped in the two stores’ lots – 71 at Cabela’s, and 64 at Wal-Mart. The highest number in a single night was 36 on June 19, the final night of the newspaper’s count.
Jennifer Doyle, owner of the local Dakota Campground, said she’s virtually powerless to stop the drain on her business.
“Other than saying free parking, there’s not much I can do,” Doyle said. “You really can’t compete with free.”
Linda Payne said financial considerations had nothing to do with her decision to camp Wednesday night at Cabela’s. She said RVers love campgrounds, but they can’t always stay at one for days on end. Sometimes, she said, they just need a place to pull over for a night.
“It’s a convenience thing, more than anything else,” said Payne, who lives full-time in a 42-foot RV with her husband, Norm. “We don’t have to unhook our car, and we don’t have to set up things like we would in a campground. And if we come in late and leave early, we’re not disturbing other people who are relaxing and resting.”