Republican legislators are attempting to pass legislation that would require people to use a designated camping area and allow them to sleep in a tent or RV.
The proposal would require that RVers pay for security and cleanup after a camping fire.
The legislation was introduced Thursday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and would take effect on Jan. 1.
Gaetz’s legislation is being billed as a way to reduce RV fires, which are an increasingly common problem in Florida.
Gaets legislation would make it a felony for a person to camp without permission from a public agency or the owner.
A camp fire is defined as a blaze that occurs at night and that continues for more than an hour.
That means a person could be charged with a crime for camping in a campfire or in an unattended campground.
The bill would make campfires and campsites illegal in many places, including parks and beaches.
If the bill passes, it would require the owner of any campground or parkland to allow the campfire to burn for an hour, according to the bill.
That would make camping in public parks illegal and illegal campsites or open spaces, including beachfront and wooded areas, would also be considered illegal.
Gaetts bill would also create a new class of crime known as the campground trespasser, which would allow a person convicted of violating the law to be fined up to $250,000, jail time of up to five years, and a $1,000 fine for each subsequent offense.
The new class would also require a person who is convicted of a campground trespass to be issued a citation and be required to pay restitution to the property owner, according the bill, which does not specify what would happen to people who are not charged with violating the new law.
“Campers, including those who camp in private places such as golf courses, could also be required by the new bill to comply with the requirements to keep their campfire in a properly lit area,” the bill states.
“These campfires should not be used by minors and those who have been convicted of the campgrounds trespasser will have to pay a penalty for their offense.”
The bill has a number of other provisions that would make the camping industry a less attractive option for people looking to rent a campsite or RV, such as requiring campsites and campgrounds to be inspected and monitored by an official.
Gaetts bill would require camping campsites to be “as safe as possible” when they are being rented, the bill adds.
“As campers and campers’ families have learned over the years, this means that they should be sure that the space they are renting is safe,” the legislation states.
It also states that campgrounds and camp sites must be equipped with “fire alarms” and fire-extinguishing systems.
The bill also says that “no person may, in the presence of a fire alarm, leave or enter a camp or camp site without being required to vacate the site and pay for the cost of a full refund of the cost incurred.”
In addition, campgrounds must be locked down at all times and “no campers shall enter or leave a camp site unattended,” according to Gaets bill.
Gaetz said he is concerned about the number of campfires that occur in Florida, particularly in the summer, and the number that burn out.
He said that the bill would provide a legal framework for preventing fires from occurring in a way that could be detrimental to the environment.
“I’m very concerned about our water quality, our wildlife, and all of the other things that go along with it,” he said.
“But at the same time, I think it is a good idea to have a safe environment to camp.”
The legislation would also apply to campsites in private property, including golf courses and other parks and recreational areas.
Gaeters bill would apply to all campsites that are “open to the public, without regard to whether the public is using them as a residence, as a business, as recreation, or as an outdoor activity,” according the legislation.
But in addition to prohibiting campfires, the Gaets proposal would prohibit people from camping at any campsite that has been designated for a “special purpose,” such as a sporting event, the Florida Wilderness Society said in a statement.
“There is a long history of wildfires in Florida and we continue to have these fires as a result of the irresponsible use of camp fires,” the Wilderness Society stated.
“The legislation is another example of the dangerous and irresponsible use that campers have made of the resources of the state and other lands in Florida.”
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