Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

RV parking at Lake City's Walmart
An issue soon to be gone with the wind

The Observer learned early Wednesday evening that the RV no parking issue at  the Lake City Walmart, which has gone viral on the net and done nothing more than cause ill will for Lake City and Columbia County, is soon to be gone with the wind. A call to Wendell Johnson,  Lake City’s straight talking City Manager, confirmed the tip was soon to become a reality and the signs at Walmart are going to be coming down.

The Observer asked City Manager Johnson if it was really true that the PR nightmare was coming to an end on Thursday.

City Manager (CM) Johnson: “Walmart has been a good neighbor and voluntarily put up the signs. They are their signs, not the City’s. Now I am going to do everything I can to see that the signs come down, because it is the right thing to do.”

The Observer: “For a while, when Scott Reynolds was the City Manager [2008], this went away. Now it came back...”

CM Johnson: “That’s right. Everything I know about this issue has been ongoing for the last 20 months that I've been here. It's become a problem that we don't need in Lake City and I am going to do my very best to resolve the problem.”

The Observer: “Has there been any conversation with the Council members and the Mayor?” 

CM Johnson: “What do you think? I told the Mayor that this is going to be a challenge. It did not have to be this way, but unfortunately for us it is this way.” 

CM Johnson continued: “This is a black eye that needs to be fixed. It’s not good for any of us.” 

CM Johnson said there may be a press conference, although he was not sure that it would be necessary and that he thought tomorrow [now today] would be the turning point.

The Observer: “I’m sure many folks, from here to Oklahoma are going to be glad to hear that, even Mr. Shaw.”

CM Johnson concluded: “Lake City is the gateway to Florida. We welcome everyone into Florida and want everyone to feel welcome in Lake City.”

The Observer: "Thanks for your time this evening." 

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On Feb 4, 2011, Jack from near Arcadia wrote:

I feel this is the best for Lake City and Columbia County.  We live near Arcadia, Florida and always consider Lake City as an overnight stop when traveling to or from our home. If required to stay at a campground, we would simply drive a little further (and spend our money elsewhere). I know of at least a few RVers that stopped for the night at Wal-Mart, liked the area and then went to a local campground to spend more time in the area. This can be a win/win situation for everyone.  Jack Conrad


On Feb 4, 2011, Jim from Oklahoma wrote:

Typical politician: The city manager Johnson creates the problem and then blames it on Wal*Mart. Who else does this sound like..... oh yes, Obama blaming Bush for everything.   Jim Foreman


On Feb 4, 2011, Henry wrote:

If all government bureaucracies  were as responsive to the wishes of the people as Lake  City's, just think how great our country would be!  I am going to make it a point to fill up and buy groceries the next time I pass through Lake City, $300 or more. Great example!   Henry


On Feb 4, 2011, John from Georgia wrote:

As a retired military RVer who would stop overnight at the Lake City Wal-Mart to purchase supplies, eat a meal, and get a few hours rest before continuing on to south Florida, I am very impressed with the common sense shown by the leaders of Lake City!  This should have never become the issue it did, for whatever reason.  No RV traveler will ever pay the full rate at any local campground for just a few hours sleep, especially since most RV parks are not located near any stores or restaurants.  It’s not worth the effort to unhook the camper or towed vehicle and drive back to town to take care of these necessities, especially if it’s late and the driver is tired.  It’s easier to just drive down the road a little farther or stop sooner in a town where we are welcome.  

Please express my thanks to all the local leaders who had the sense to stop this before it hurt the local economy.  This is already being reported on many national RV forums and the response seems to be that more folks are going to make it a point to stop in Lake City in the future to show their appreciation!   John Kemp


On Feb 4, 2011, KarenInTheWoods wrote:

We are greatly pleased to hear that we do not have to cross Lake City off our RV friendly list!

Most RVers are selfcontained and like to stop and spend money when en-route to another area.  We have solar power, holding tanks and our own sources of heat.

We do not want to be pushed into staying at substandard campgrounds for overinflated prices for just a sleepover stop.  We are there in your area, spending our money in your other businesses in your community--- adding to your city's coffers in many ways.  We buy fuel, groceries, gifts, go out to eat, get hair cuts, repair our vehicles and patronize your local produce farmers.  The last we want is to be rounded up and sent to a restrictive campground when we have no intentions of camping.  We are RVing.  Traveling through your town as we go south, and stopping again on our way back through to go north!

Thank you for listening to the RVer's who are the ones spending the money.... 

Steve and Karen --  seasonal  travelers through your town


On Feb 4, 2011, Peter and Connie from Florida wrote:

Thank you Lake City for taking down the sign and allowing RVs to park at the Wal Mart. I live in Florida and have used the Stephen Foster State Park for a rally. This led to one of my attendees taking another group to the same park for another rally. Both rallies brought attendees down to Lake City for shopping and dining. In this economic climate, it is important to encourage RVers to come to your city for enjoyment. They spend money and help your economy. I would have no longer recommended Lake City to others if you had banned RVs from the Wal Mart. This is an indication to us, as RVers, that we would not be welcome in your city. We tend to be a close knit society who communicate with one another about the good places to go and the places to avoid.

We are glad Lake City has decided to be a place to go not a place to avoid. Again Thank You, Connie


On Feb 4, 2011, Dave from South Dakota wrote:

As an RVer, I'd still feel pretty nervous about stopping in Lake City for a few of hours of sleep AS LONG AS THE NOP ORDINANCES ARE STILL ON THE BOOKS whether the signs banning same are up or not.

When the actual ordinances have been recinded and are no longer enforcable then I and many  RVer's that I talk with and communicate with via e-mail and RV orientated web sites will feel that Lake City and Colunbia County are once again "safe" places to stop for a few hours, get some sleep, eat a meal or two, and often do a bit of shopping before pressing on further South in the Fall (or North in the Spring).

As it is I can't recommend that any of us stop there as long as the laws still ban overnight parking by our RVs in the Walmart or other similar lots.  It would be a whole lot safer to press on or to stop short than risk the citation.  Signs or no signs.

I seriously encourage your City Councils and County Commisioners to remove these ordinances else all it will take is a different City Manager,  Police Chief, or Sheriff and you will be right back on the nat'l news with another "black eye".

Besides having unenforced laws on the books is just plain bad business.

Dave Jeffries South Dakota (in the summer)  


On Feb 4, 2011, Frank from Florida wrote:

Sir:   We live in Lake City, but are currently in south Florida following this brouhaha not only via The Observer, but also on three different Internet blogs. It basically began on walmartrving@yahoogroups.com but quickly spread to two other blogs concerning Monaco Coach owners that I read--and who knows how many others? We are really happy that the signs have come down, and although one poster at walmartrving says as long as the ordinance is on the books he won't come to Lake City, the vast majority of posters claim they will even drive out of their way to spend time/money in Lake City as a way of showing their appreciation to the people of Lake City for taking down the no overnight parking (NOP) signs at Walmart. We know Lake City is not anti RV, and wants the business of this group.

A win for everyone, as walmartrvers would not utilize a local campground if the NOP signs had stayed up, they would simply go to the next town that did not ban overnight parking.   Frank Walter


On Feb 5, 2011, Pat from Tampa wrote:

I want to thank Lake City for changing their minds about banning overnight parking at the local Wal-Mart. I usually use the Wal-Mart not as an overnight stay but as a place to rest a couple of hours, have a dinner at a local restaurant, buy gasoline and stock up my RV before I go out of state (or even when I visit my children in Jacksonville).  I live in Tampa and it is just the perfect distance to need a rest.  I am glad that you decided that we (RVers) would be welcome in your town again. A lot of us have always liked taking a break in Lake City and I am very glad to be able to do it again.

Just so you know how far this had spread in the RV world, I had emails from friends in California, New York and one from an RV buddy that lives in Germany and camps in the US several times a year.

For your info:
Estimating amounts I spend on each stop in Lake City--$150 in gas (I drive a big class A), $25-30 food, $60-80 in Wal-Mart for food and “stuff”. If you multiply this times the number of times I wander through Lake City in a year 6-8, it is quite a lot for only one person. If you multiply this times the number of RVs stopping in Lake City…   Pat


This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.


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