Does Parking an RV on the Street Constitute Camping

 Camping was something I did a lot of when I was a kid. My parents didn’t have much money, so our annual family vacations consisted of hitching a pop-up camper to the van and hitting the road. Sometimes we would stay at a piece of property my father owned in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes we would camp in state parks. One time I remember setting up on a street in downtown Watertown, New York. I’ve always wondered if that experience was genuine camping.

I was reminded of my Watertown experience by a recent news article published by MSN News. The article talked about an RV ‘encampment’ in Eugene, Oregon, an encampment the city closed down because of its location. You see, the RVs were not parked in a public park. They were not occupying a public campground or even taking up space in a parking lot. Rather, they were parked on the street.

City officials decided to move the RV owners along because the street was scheduled for resurfacing. It turns out that many of them just moved to the next block over. It also turns out that they are homeless – at least in the sense that they don’t live in site-built houses. They live in their trailers and campers.

Referred to As Camping

The interesting thing about the MSN News piece is that it continually refers to people parking their RVs on the street as ‘camping’. I suppose it can be considered as such if your definition includes seeking shelter in anything other than a permanent structure. But what if you hold to a more traditional definition?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines camping as “the act of staying and sleeping in an outside area for one or more days and nights, usually in a tent.” Other dictionaries offer similar definitions. But if you dig a little deeper, you find the one thing they all have in common is a general application to non-urban locations.

You could call what’s going on in Eugene camping if the Cambridge Dictionary definition is used literally. According to that definition, a tent is not mandatory for camping. Then again, if you apply a more stringent definition involving only non-urban locations, the Eugene RV owners are not campers. They are people living in their trailers and RVs.

Skirting and Awnings

It would be interesting to note what the RVs and trailers parked along Eugene streets would begin looking like if people stayed put for years. Would some owners install RV skirting? They would probably want to, explains Connecticut-based AirSkirts, in order to protect their pipes and tanks from freezing. Temperatures can get pretty cold in Eugene.

In addition to RV skirting, would some street-side residents deploy their awnings? And would they put tables and chairs under those awnings? Doing so makes a lot of sense. If you are going to be parked permanently, putting out the awning is like setting up a front porch.

In reality, what’s happening in Eugene isn’t camping in the traditional sense. Moreover, the campers are not staying in one place for years on end. Like most cities where the homeless are forced to find creative living solutions, the folks in Eugene stay for as long as they can before being told to move on. Then they pick up and find another street to accommodate them.

Whether or not there is a solution to street-side camping remains to be seen. Some people suggest that no solution is necessary. One way or the other, parking your RV along the curb in the middle of the city hardly constitutes traditional camping.

Comments are closed.