Roseburg, Oregon, recently made headlines for its new overnight parking code. And they’re not alone.
Jurisdictions nationwide are implementing rules regarding vehicles left on the street after hours. So what does this mean for travelers?
Today, we’re digging into these new ordinances to help you avoid a fine or a trip to the impound lot.
Oregon City Updates Overnight Parking Code
Roseburg enacted a new parking ordinance to clear up confusion about camping in public spaces. The announcement came in response to Oregon House Bill 3115, which mandates cities update their parking regulations to ensure they’re reasonable for visiting campers and locals.
This new parking code defines where overnighting is prohibited and strictly forbids daytime camping on public property. Folks won’t be able to stay in residential areas, within 200 feet of schools or ten feet of sidewalks, or adjacent to city-owned buildings.
Some of these restrictions are for campers’ safety. For example, overnighting near reservoirs or the high-tide markers of waterways is off-limits.
In addition, makeshift campsites can’t be over 100 square feet and must be fully self-contained. And each camper is limited to one mobility device, such as a bike or wheelchair.
Why Do Cities Enact Overnight Parking Codes?
Roseburg isn’t the only city enforcing overnight parking codes. These ordinances are becoming more common throughout the country. For example, Walnut, California, and Burnsville, Minnesota, recently announced their own mandates.
Public safety seems to be the main focus of these laws. In Walnut, you must have a parking pass to leave your vehicle on the street between 2:00 am and 4:00 am. They state that clearing the road helps police officers spot suspicious activity and allows emergency officials to find addresses more easily.
The Burnsville mandate cites similar reasons but also includes increased access for snow plows to clear streets during winter.
Each municipality has means of alerting the public to these laws. Some post signage at each entrance to the town, while others have notices along each street.
What Happens If You Violate an Overnight Parking Code?
Parking code violations vary between jurisdictions, but some are much more lenient than others. Cities handle most parking-related citations, but universities and similar institutions control bylaws on their campuses.
For example, officials at the University of Houston will tow any vehicle breaking the overnight parking code on the first offense. And in Appleton, Wisconsin, you’ll find clearly defined fees for each violation posted on their website. They even include a discount if you pay your fine within 15 days of the occurrence.
Knowing the specific rules for an area before overnighting in your vehicle is a good idea. This is true no matter where you choose to park.
What Is the Difference Between Camping and Overnight Parking?
Some codes allow overnight parking but not camping. But what distinguishes these two activities? When it comes to RVs, the difference is usually pretty straightforward. Things like extending slideouts, mounting a satellite dish, and setting up your outdoor grill may indicate you’re camping.
Wyoming Highway Patrol says you’re merely parked if your RV is in “ready to drive” condition. In other words, all you have to do is crank up the engine and go. But if you have to raise levelers or retract awnings, you’re officially camping.
When in doubt about whether you’re camping or overnight parking, look at your rig from an outsider’s perspective. If it looks like someone’s living in the RV, you’re probably camping.
Why Would You Choose Overnight Parking Instead of Camping?
Lot docking, or parking overnight at a business, is gaining popularity. That’s no surprise, as many new RVers are hitting the road.
This practice is convenient when you’ve been traveling for hours and need a safe place to catch some shut-eye. With fees for campgrounds on the rise, it can be difficult to foot the bill for a site each night. And if you only need a few hours of sleep, it’s hard to justify paying for a whole stay.
Folks living in their vehicle by circumstance rather than by choice may not be able to afford a permanent spot. Unhoused people who struggle with these fees still need a safe place to rest.
What Are the Rules of Overnight Parking?
Seasoned RVers know that overnight parking is a privilege and not a right. After all, businesses dealing with inconsiderate campers can choose to have rigs towed if they become a nuisance.
You’ll want to respect posted signage when pulling into a lot. If they say overnight parking isn’t allowed, you’ll need to find somewhere else to rest.
Places like Walmart and Cracker Barrel are popular among road warriors. They usually only ask that you check in with staff and park away from the main entrance.
However, common courtesy is always appreciated. You won’t want to camp long-term in one of these lots. That means limiting your stay to one night and avoiding the use of slideouts, awnings, and levelers if at all possible.
An unspoken rule of lot docking is to show up towards the end of the business day and get back on the road before customers arrive the next morning. It’s also a nice gesture to purchase something before taking off.
Know the Rules Before You Arrive
More places are implementing overnight parking codes to address RVers and car campers on public property. Some cities may be more lenient than others, but having clearly stated rules generally benefits travelers.
The next time you hit the road, look up parking laws on city websites to ensure you’re in compliance. Few things can ruin your night more than waking up to the cops beating on your door!
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