CARAVAN park owners across Wagga are rapidly losing money as Wilks Park, a free camping ground on the North Wagga flats, grows in popularity.On Wednesday afternoon The Daily Advertiser counted 14 occupied sites in Wilks Park.According to the owner of the park's nearest commercial competitor, Horseshoe Motor Village, it is not unusual to see up to 20 occupants choosing to stay the night there free, and it's an issue starting to impact bottom lines.After enduring three years of frustration as he watched Wilks Park pick off his customers, the owner of Horseshoe Motor Village, Jim Williams, decided to circulate his concerns among local caravan parks as well as Wagga City Council.While the response from council hasn't given him much joy, the snowball of responses he has had from other parks has confirmed to him there is a problem. He says the situation is anti-competitive.Of those staying at Wilks Park on Wednesday night, several said they were there to keep costs down, with Clive Renahan among them."This park is in the RACV guide book, all the freebies are ... I chose to come here because it's free and it's green," Mr Renahan said."I'm travelling the country and there are plenty of costs involved once you take into account petrol and food so if I don't have to pay caravan park fees, I don't."It's left Mr Williams at a loss."It would be like having a section of Wagga with no rates - wouldn't people who lived in parts of the city that did have rates be upset?" asked Mr Williams."I'm not against free camping altogether, but I just don't think it should be allowed in the middle of Wagga."Mr Williams believes that the solution is for council to downgrade Wilks Park to a barbecue area, once again banning people from staying there overnight.According to Wagga City Council's tourism manager Sally Nolan, however, there are no plans to discourage campers from using Wilks Park.
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