Motorhomes parking in the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park

Dear Editor,

On Saturday, November 21, there was some disturbing news emerging about some local people from the Vila do Bispo area getting together and taking it upon themselves to evict people in campervans from beach car parks in the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park. There have been ongoing problems with the arrival of more and more people in campervans and motorhomes over the last few years to this area of Portugal. Most of the negative reporting about people in vans is actually either totally fabricated or is a very small minority of people.

The issues with litter, toilet paper and people urinating and defecating in these areas are a problem that concerns everyone and the problem lies with day trippers in cars, locals and other tourists as well as a very small minority of people in campervans.

While I understand it is prohibited for any vehicle to park overnight in any Natural Park in Portugal, this needs to be addressed in a more professional manner than pointing the finger at one group of people. Better information, signs and facilities would go a long way to alleviating this problem.

What I found even more disturbing was the report on the MEO Beachcam website. The article was full of anti-foreigner rhetoric with, among other things, an unsubstantiated claim of 70% of Covid-19 in the area being amongst foreigners. After some research into some online groups that are actively against the ‘wild’ campers in the Villa do Bispo area, I found that they have links to the Chega party, the far-right political party in Portugal.

I hope that moving forward there can be better solutions to the problem of parking in the natural parks of Portugal. I also hope that you will not be drawn into a political circus by the far-right and realise that most people in campervans are decent people who have worked hard to buy themselves some freedom on wheels and are as concerned about the environment as most other people.

A summary of recommendations I have put to the ICNF:

1. Have better signs on all roads that enter the natural park to alert people that they are now in the park. Have better signs at all the carparks within the natural park that say no overnight parking for ANY vehicle. Only put up legitimate signs stating who authorised it and which law it refers to.

2. Have ICNF wardens alerting people that they cannot stay overnight, including the local fishermen who park their cars for large parts of the night in the same car parks.

3. Let the GNR issue fines to any parking infringement but do not allow them to make people move in the middle of the night especially those over the legal limit for alcohol, those too drowsy to drive and those with small children.

4. Provide public toilets at all beach carparks and other places of interest where people are encouraged to spend long periods of the day.
5. Provide more reasonably priced and free Aires as an alternative to campsites.

6. Provide better information for tourists in campervans who visit Portugal particularly in regards to the law.

7. Make it clear what is camping and what is parking and in what car parks people in campervans can use to park overnight and sleep in their vehicle.

Miss S J Wilkinson
By email