RVers Trade Tickets for Oceanside View
Jeanne Engelhardt and her husband live hectic lives running their Simi Valley, Calif., paving business, so when the weekend rolls around they love to take their RV to the Pacific coast and let the work-a-day worries fade with each wave.
The only problem: The Rincon Parkway north of Ventura fills up quickly and the Engelhardts are often shut out of the legal overnight parking spaces. So sometimes they just park in the free day-use sites and suffer a $90 parking ticket, according to the Ventura County Star, Camarillo, Calif.
"You are on the coast for $90 a night, so it's worth it," she said on a recent Saturday. "I want to put on the check, ‘Thanks for a great night.' "
Every year, when the kids are out of school and the sun is out, the battle for Rincon's 127 beachfront camping spots heats up. People will wait hours for legal spots to open up or park their RVs a few days before the weekend to secure spots.
This year, with a weak economy and high gas prices, RV drivers are staying closer to home, and the battle for the coveted spots is heating up. The result is that more people are parking illegally, willing to suck up the extra cost just to hear the ocean steps from their door.
In July, 358 tickets were written for illegal parking, compared to 280 for the same month last year, according to Pam Gallo, park operations supervisor for the county.
Bill Slaughter, a Ventura attorney, recently wrote a letter to Supervisor Steve Bennett after Slaughter said he couldn't find a day-use parking spot over the July Fourth weekend because of all the RVs.
"The situation is now totally out of control," Slaughter wrote. "There are very few options left for those of us who are not driving motorhomes."
Gallo said the battle for free spots is always there during the busy summer season but added that gas prices could be a factor in people staying closer to home. She estimates about 40% of the people along the Rincon Parkway are from Ventura County.
A survey by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) shows people are still camping but only going about 200 miles away from home.
Armando Villa recently spent $140 on gas for his $7,500 motorhome when he drove to the Rincon from Lancaster.
When he got there, all the camping spots were taken so he parked illegally overnight and got the $90 ticket. If he had found one of the legal camping spots, it would have cost $25 a night, so the extra $65 was worth it, he said.
"I came from too far away to go back," he said.
Gallo said the situation has gotten better since 2005, when the parking tickets were only $40 and people seemed to scoff at the idea of a cheap ticket. In July 2005, 610 tickets were issued.
The change was made to make the free parking area available to everyone.
This year, the parking area between Emma Wood State Beach and Solimar Beach was changed from no parking before 7 a.m. to no parking before 6 a.m.
Gallo said the change was to allow surfers, walkers and fishermen access to the free parking when the sun was up.