This title might feel like an attack on local campers, but hear us out. Some local campers really are ruining camping for everybody.
And if you’re a local camper reading this post, chances are it’s not you.
Parties, violence, crime, land misuse, littering, and more are causing everyone to lose camping privileges.
Let’s take a closer look at the true cause of this huge camping problem.
Campground Closures Largely Due to Locals
Campgrounds have been closing left and right around the US over the past few years. The closures are almost exclusively due to local campers, encampments, and partiers.
Over the past year, campgrounds in several states have been closed for various reasons. Ultimately, every closure comes down to misuse of the land and strain on local law enforcement and land management resources.
Campground closures affect much more than just local campers. Traveling RVers seeking a place to stay for the night or weekend now have an even harder time finding free camping in many areas.
Local Campground Partiers Are a Nuisance
Campground partiers are almost always locals, and local law enforcement struggles to keep up with noise violations, drunken fights, and more.
In addition to the strain on local law enforcement, partying campers are a significant nuisance to neighboring campsites. From the sheer amount of noise, drunken revelers, and trash left behind, partiers cause big campground issues.
When local law enforcement can’t keep up with the number of calls coming in due to parties and fights, they choose to shut down the area to camping.
In April of 2021, local Forest Protection Officers in the Tonto National Forest stumbled upon a huge illegal party with over 5,000 reckless partiers. Citations were issued for DUIs, camps blocking roadways, unlawful use of fireworks and target shooting, and more.
Permanent Encampments Threaten To Close Free Campsites
Another significant reason for campground closures is permanent encampments on public lands. Permanent encampments are set up by permanently or temporarily homeless individuals, but this also strains local resources.
Free campsites have a stay limit, and the most common amount of time campers can stay in one place is 14 days.
Permanent encampments don’t follow those rules, and often because they don’t have the resources necessary to move.
Public lands outside of heavily populated areas with steep rent increases are attractive options for displaced individuals.
When a camping area becomes full of permanent encampments, local officials are tasked with policing the areas and are responsible for thousands of dollars of cleanup that comes directly from taxpayers.
With local land management resources sparse, free camping areas prone to permanent encampments often get closed down to ease the strain on local resources and allow the land to recover from litter and overuse.
Tips for Courteous Camping
The world will likely never be completely free of disrespectful campers, whether they are local or not. Here are some tips to be a courteous camper to prevent contributing to land misuse and strain on local agencies.
Be Mindful Of Your Noise and Light Levels
Campers should be mindful of noise and light levels, even at free campsites with no posted rules. If you have neighbors within eye or earshot of you, be courteous! Follow general “quiet hours” to be respectful of your fellow camper.
Not only is noise a nuisance, but bright porch and campsite lights can also disrupt sleep and a view of the night sky.
Leave No Trace
Leave no trace camping means to leave nothing behind but footprints, or as an RV, tire prints. Always leave a campsite better than you found it!
If you choose a campsite with trash left behind from previous campers, take it out with you when you leave.
Every camper’s responsibility as a public land user is to clean up and care for the public lands that we have the privilege of camping on.
Follow Posted and Suggested Stay Limits
Most free camping spots and campsites within national forests will have posted stay limits. Sometimes the stay limits are posted directly at the campground, but you will often find them on the governing agencies’ website.
Obey posted stay limits; they exist for a reason! And most of the time, rangers are driving by and checking license plates at least once a day. They know how long you’ve been there, so it’s not a good idea to press your luck.
Campground Closures Will Continue To Happen
Campground closures aren’t new, and we don’t imagine they’ll stop anytime soon.
Whether it’s trashed land and strained law enforcement due to local partiers, we expect to see the trend continue.
Most campers are respectful, but as the saying goes, one bad apple ruins the bunch. One large event can ruin camping for everybody. There aren’t many rules for boondocking, but the ones that do exist are for a reason. Let’s all do our best not to contribute to the problems of littering and land misuse.
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