A new law in Missouri states “No person shall be permitted to use state-owned lands for unauthorized sleeping, camping, or the construction of long-term shelters.”
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A new Missouri law makes unauthorized camping on state land a crime- punishable by up to 15 days in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines.
Several viewers reached out to the Verify team concerned about their camping plans.
The law, effective January 1st, states “No person shall be permitted to use state-owned lands for unauthorized sleeping, camping, or the construction of long-term shelters.”
A 5 On Your Side viewer from Maryland Heights wanted some clarity on how it might affect camping trips.
“Is it true camping in Missouri state parks is now illegal?”
David Kelly, Director of Missouri State Parks
Senator Holly Rehder, (R) District 27
False. The new law does not make camping illegal in state parks.
We know from reading the bill unauthorized camping is now a crime.
But, what does unauthorized mean?
It can be confusing because camping in Missouri doesn’t have strict protocols when it comes to authorization. You don’t have to make a reservation to camp at any of the 92 state-owned parks. Sometimes there is no park staff so an honor system is used to pay campsite fees.
The Verify team showed the law to David Kelly, the Director of Missouri State Parks. He said it comes down to the land’s designated use.
“We have designated campsites, so it’s not unauthorized. We have authorized campsites. And so that’s why the bill doesn’t really affect our operation, said Kelly.
Senator Rehder, who wrote the legislation, told the Verify team the law is aimed at the unhoused population. She explained why she used the word camping in the legislation.
“That is because we do have so many unsanctioned encampments, absolutely we’re not talking about normal campers,” Rehder said.
We can verify this is false. The new law does not make camping illegal in state parks.