Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drivesmart column: Camping beside a highway: maybe, maybe not

This must be considered along with municipal and regional rules

By Tim Schewe

Traveling on a budget was likely behind a request for information that I received about camping beside the highway. The correspondent was curious to know if there are any rules in B.C. that would stop someone from camping on the side of the highway overnight.

If you can put up with the noise you can save the camping fees! As long as you park properly off of the traveled portion of a provincial highway and it is not prohibited by a sign, there is no reason that you cannot camp overnight as far as the Motor Vehicle Act is concerned.

This must be considered along with municipal and regional rules however.

If you are inside a municipality, camping and parking may be regulated by a bylaw in addition to the rules in the Motor Vehicle Act. Such things as parking a trailer on the street not connected to the towing vehicle, parking in excess of 24 hours, or camping anywhere not in a camping area may be prohibited. The only way to tell is to check with each municipality as bylaws may be different in each one.

Some regional districts have chosen to regulate camping as well. The Cowichan Valley Regional District for example, has chosen to prohibit camping anywhere except within designated campgrounds. Again, you will have to check with the regional district that you intend to camp in.

That leaves us with camping on private property. Many of us have parked our RV in the driveway of family or friends while we stayed to visit. Depending on the bylaws of the municipality or regional district, this may or may not be allowed.

If you park without permission on private property in a municipality, or for more than 72 hours outside of a municipality, you give the property owner permission to have the vehicle removed at your cost.

The other half of the request concerned Forest Service Roads, so I contacted the Ministry of Forests and asked. I received the same answer back, that if you parked so that traffic was not obstructed, there was no reason that you could not camp beside a Forest Service Road unless it was within a regional district and prohibited in a bylaw.

Some bylaws choose to define what camping is. If they do not, a common dictionary definition would apply:

Camping means erecting a tent or shelter or arranging bedding, or both, or parking a recreation vehicle or other vehicle for the purpose of remaining overnight.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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