LONG BEACH — Dinner time at this scenic spot by the water is a tranquil sort of affair.
At one end of the site, a family of three prepares hamburgers on an outside grill from which smoke wafts gently skyward. Nearby a group of campers sitting on folding chairs enjoys a drink in the shelter of a plastic wind barrier. And over yonder someone has erected a blue nylon tent.
Only when a car whooshes by is the illusion disturbed. The freeway is 50 feet away. And at any moment, the silence could be broken by a blast from the Queen Mary's foghorn.
"The spot is ideal," said Jenni Fisher, a vacationer from Phoenix. "We ride (around in) buses a lot. There are lots of restaurants. And you can even go to LAX if you want."
Attend 'Happy Hours'
Welcome to Shoreline RV Park, a bit of seclusion in the midst of an otherwise hectic urban sprawl. Unlike most recreational vehicle parks built in secluded beach or wilderness areas, this one is within a stone's throw of bustling downtown.
"We try to go to 'Happy Hours'," continued Fisher, a thrifty secretary who had accompanied her mother on this two-week vacation. "We like the free food."
And city officials like the rental income.
Founded in 1983, the city-owned facility--the only RV park in Long Beach--generates about $200,000 a year. "We're really pleased with it," said Dick Miller, manager of the city's marine bureau, which overseas the park. "I just wish I had more land to put another RV park on."
The fact that this one ended up here rather than in the more conventional rural-type setting traditionally associated with RV parks was simply a matter of circumstance. Located near Shoreline Village and within easy walking distance of the convention center, Hyatt Regency hotel and downtown shopping areas, the park was created as part of a tidelands redevelopment project south of Ocean Boulevard and east of the Los Angeles River at its mouth.
"At the time it was the only land available," said Jim Page, the park's superintendent. "It allows us to accommodate visitors to the city. If you are going to have a convention at a major hotel but want to come by motor home, we've made arrangements."
Those arrangements include 70 spaces equipped with full electrical, sewage and water hook-ups for which visitors in everything from Volkswagen vans to $300,000 motor homes pay daily rates of $16 to $19.50. Stays are limited to 30 days per year.
Most of the time there are few empty spaces, officials say. With a year-round occupancy rate of about 92% which increases to 100% on weekends and holidays, Page said, many visitors book their stays a year in advance.
'A Hard Place to Find'
Not all are vacationers.
To be sure, there are people like Jeff and Doreen Ashworth of Yorkshire, England, who--touring the California coast in a borrowed recreational vehicle--had stopped in Long Beach for two days en route to San Diego. "This is a hard place to find," complained Jeff, a retired Rolls-Royce engineer, who said he spent two hours searching for the park. "It's been an adventure."
But there are also folks like Doug Martin, a retired tanker truck manufacturer in his 60s who lives in the desert community of Indian Wells and periodically drives down in a 33-foot Holiday Rambler motor home towing his sparkling 1952 Bentley behind him. "I do a lot of walking with my dogs," said Martin between swipes at the Bently with a polishing rag. "Today I went down to the Rossmoor (Bowling Alley) to bowl all afternoon."
Or Brenda Johnston, a 34-year-old mother from North Hollywood who has been living in the park with her 4-year-old son for about a month while her ironworker husband completes a job in San Pedro. "It's easier for him to drive back and forth to work from here," she said. "It's fun. It's no different from living at home except that you get to meet your neighbors."
And then there are the Bakers. For 45 years they have lived in Long Beach, most recently in an expensive home on the city's affluent east side. But personal problems recently forced them to sell their house. So for the past three months they have lived in a motor home, touring area parks and enjoying the novelty of retirement but also hoping that somehow their luck would change.
"You meet a lot of interesting people," allowed Raymond Baker, 71, of his new-found community at Shoreline RV Park. "I like it."
His wife, Pauline, was less than sold on their new life style. "I want a yard," she sniffed. "And a neighborhood. And space."
Over at the other end, the secretary from Phoenix was also less than thrilled with life in a motor home. But Shoreline RV Park, she said, has its advantages.
"I'd really like to be at the Hyatt," the young woman explained, glancing in the direction of the nearby luxury hotel. Not to worry. "I go there on Sundays to read the paper."