DEVELOPED CAMPGROUNDS IN LANE COUNTY PARKS OR NATIONAL FORESTS — There are essentially no locations within Eugene or Springfield, and very few locations elsewhere in our area that outright permit camping. Lane County has 3 parks that allow it: Richardson Park (Junction City), Baker Bay (Dorena) and Harbor Vista (Florence). The first two are open mid-April to mid-October, and Harbor Vista is open year round. All are geared toward tourists, rather than the homeless population, with fees ranging from $20 to $25+ per night. The Willamette National Forest includes over 70 developed campgrounds, generally in the Cascade mountains running north-south, up the McKenzie river and in the vicinity of Westfir, as well as points farther east, at higher elevations—not convenient if you have business to conduct in the Eugene-Springfield area, but otherwise rustic and beautiful. For reservations, visit www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
DISPERSED CAMPING IN NATIONAL FORESTS –This is “camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground,” and is generally allowed anywhere except within 100 feet of a lake, trail, or stream or where posted as closed. Generally, there is a 14 DAY PER TWO MONTH STAY LIMIT (14 days in a 60-day period) on the Willamette National Forest. Establishing residency is against federal regulation. Dispersed camping may mean no toilet facilities or treated water are located nearby, and no fire grates are provided. Typically, dispersed camping is not allowed near developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas or trailheads. Many people drive out on Forest Service roads into the woods and find a clearing or a spot near a stream or with a view of the mountains.”
CAMPING EXPERTISE — Local camping supply stores can be a great source of information on camping as well. Check out REI at 3rd and Lawrence www.rei.com , Backcountry Gear, at 1855 W. 2nd in Eugene www.backcountrygear.com , or Cabelas in Springfield at the Gateway Mall, 2800 Gateway, www.cabelas.com .
UNAUTHORIZED CAMPING – no government site will tell you much of anything about unauthorized camping, for fear of appearing to condone something illegal. So here’s the story:
Everybody has to sleep somewhere. If you’re careful, you’re more likely to get away with unauthorized camping. If you attract negative attention you are likely to get rousted. Individuals, and some advocacy groups, have set up camp sites on an improvised basis for quite some time in our area, occasionally keeping it together for weeks or months before a few bad actors ruin it for everyone else. Noisy, inconsiderate, drunken, late-night carousing, or environmentally destructive camping anywhere draws negative attention fairly quickly—so if that’s your style, don’t expect to be cut any slack. On the other hand, if your campsite is discrete, hidden away and not causing trouble for anyone, you won’t draw negative attention quite as quickly.
AUTHORIZED CITY CAMPING – This is almost non-existent, but there is a loophole: find private property owners willing to allow you to camp on their properties. City code allows this, as long as you’re not generating complaints from the neighbors, but property owners must provide access to toilets or porta-pottys, and they cannot charge rent.
HOST CAMPING – this is legal, often months or even years-long camping in church-lots and similar authorized locations. Most of these sites end up using Conestoga Huts, which are way nicer to live in than cars or tents. The downside is that there’s a waiting list, but once you get in it can be a life saver. Conversely, if you make friends with an institution and can talk them into working with you, you can fast track the arrangement. Click here for a pamphlet on Host Camping.
SAFE SPOT COMMUNITIES – If you’re ready to participate in a safe, cooperative adults-only community of the unhoused, all trying to piece their lives back together, living in tents or Conestoga huts, maximum stay 10 months, centrally located in Eugene, this could be a good option to look into.
CAR CAMPING – this is a grey area. Technically, it’s still illegal and could draw police attention. Generally, police have better things to do than to look for such violations—instead, they respond to citizen complaints. So be aware that if you are inconsiderate of neighbors, they’re more likely to call police.
Bad ideas: parking next to a stranger’s house for multiple nights without saying hello, (unfortunately, if they don’t meet you they may see you as a threat), throwing trash on the ground all around your rig, using the neighbor’s yard as a bathroom, partying, cursing, making lots of noise, making almost any noise between 10 pm and 8 am, serving as a gathering spot for your drinking buddies, or committing any kind of crime. Those are all really good ways to get rousted, ticketed or arrested, and to make it harder for everyone else out on the streets trying to get by.
Good ideas: Avoid parking adjacent to strangers’ homes if you can find alternatives, such as vacant lots or other inactive locations, especially at night when people in residences generally want to go to sleep. If you do park in residential zones, be considerate of the people who live nearby. If you are good neighbors to those you park near, people are more inclined to live and let live. Be a good neighbor, and the housed folks nearby are much more likely to cut you some slack, or even help you out. That means: clean up after yourself, sweep the sidewalk, offer to be helpful, rake leaves for nearby senior citizens, and be quiet all night. If you want to really do this up right, check in at the Lindholm Service Station on highway 99n, and ask for details on finding permitted car camping spots, which takes all the pressure off.
For further options, check out LOCAL INNOVATIONS.