Clark County fields complaints about RVs — both occupied and abandoned — parked along county roads, according to public records obtained by The Columbian. In one case, the manager of Vancouver RV Park (now called Hazel Dell RV Park) called 911 on March 30 to report people living in trailers next to the park on Northeast 13th Avenue.
“If they (deputies) come out now they’ll surely see and smell the raw sewage they just dumped,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher.
Nita Culver manages Erica Village Apartments and Knoll Mobile Home Park, which is located off Northeast 13th Avenue. She emailed Clark County Councilor Julie Olson in January about RVs parking near both properties in Hazel Dell and the county’s lack of action. She began noticing the issue in the fall.
“I’m not without empathy, and I know housing is expensive in our county, but there has got to be a better solution than to do nothing for those us who live here and have to deal with this,” she wrote. “No one wants to park out there because of the mess and the kinds of people this is attracting, and they also take up a good portion of the road.”
In an interview with The Columbian, Culver said at one point there were seven RVs parked behind Knoll Mobile. It seemed as though once one RV was there, it encouraged others. Along with them came garbage and sanitation issues and increased crime. License plates and tags were stolen from tenants’ vehicles, Culver said.
People would park their RV for a while, move up the street and return. One RV was parked in the same spot for six months, she said.
Recently, though, sheriff’s deputies spoke with people in the RVs and the situation has improved, Culver said. Nat Blackbeard, who lives in Hazel Dell and works on Northeast 13th Avenue, said a group of deputies warned campers that they had to leave.
“It went on for a few days,” she said.
She’s not sure why deputies suddenly focused on the RVs. People were living in some of them and one appeared to be used for storage, she said.
“It used to be a pretty safe street for them to come and sleep,” Blackbeard said.
Clark County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit Sgt. Alex Schoening said Deputy James Naramore, who has since retired, made arrangements with tow companies to get rid of abandoned RVs on Northeast 13th Avenue and told people occupying other nearby RVs that they were illegally parking on the street. When the abandoned RVs began getting towed, the others drove away, Schoening said.
“Some of them I’m sure have shown up in different parts of the county,” he said.
The law says that vehicles can’t be parked on a county road for more than three consecutive days. People living in RVs will move around so their homes aren’t towed.
Schoening said the main issue deputies face is derelict RVs dumped on the side of the road. Often, the registration is too out-of-date to track down the last owner, who would be responsible for covering disposal costs.
“Oftentimes, these are sold and there’s no bill of sale or current bill of sale or they might have changed hands several times,” Schoening said.
He said the sheriff’s office hasn’t yet seen a benefit from Senate Bill 6437, which went into effect last month and creates a fund to help cover RV disposal costs. Getting rid of an RV can conservatively cost $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the hazardous materials it contains, such as raw sewage, asbestos and garbage, Schoening said. He estimated there are a dozen derelict RVs in the county, and at least another dozen ramshackle RVs that are occupied.
The county is in the process of adopting a protocol for dealing with homeless camps on county-owned property that would include RVs.
Schoening said deputies may refer people living in RVs to local homeless services.
Culver, the mobile home park manager, understands the situation people face. They need a place to park their RV and not everyone can afford to rent a pad in an RV park, or maybe they’re waiting for an available spot.
Knoll Mobile has a wait list for its limited number of RV spots, which cost $500 monthly. Culver sees a range of potential renters — from those with disabilities, people traveling for work or families needing to catch up on bills before renting a house again. Unlike most RV parks, Knoll Mobile doesn’t have age restrictions on RVs, but asks that RVs be in good shape.
“RV spots are in great demand. I probably get 30 calls a week on average,” Culver said.