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Yankton Gets Serious About Requiring Campers to Get Permission to Camp on City Property

Speaking of camping, the city of Yankton is getting just a little tougher on pitching a tent or parking the RV around town. On Monday night, the Yankton City Commission passed its first camping ordinance.

According to a January 12 memo from city attorney Ross K. Den Herder, the city council currently receives and approves “reasonable” requests for camping on city property, but it has no law or formal ordinance for approving such requests or for camping in general. Last summer the problem came to a head as city personnel fielded numerous complaints about camping around town, found lots of unattended camping gear on city property, and faced some confrontational campers.

Thus, the Yankton City Commission has approved Ordinance #1068 to make clear that you can’t camp in Yankton outside of a properly zoned and licensed campground without approval:

(a) No person shall be permitted to camp outside of a properly zoned and licensed campground within the jurisdictional limits of the City of Yankton without consent of the City Manager or the City Manager’s designee. The consent shall be in writing and shall limit the location and duration of the approved camp. For purposes of this Ordinance, to “camp” shall mean to utilize a tent, camper, tarp, cardboard, or other material or device for shelter or lodging of persons or property. A violation of this Ordinance shall be a class two misdemeanor.

(b) The Yankton Police Department shall be permitted to remove, impound as evidence for prosecution, and store for safe keeping all personal property associated with an unauthorized campsite [City of Yankton, Ordinance #1068, approved by Yankton City Commissioner 2023.01.23].

Cardboard camping—I haven’t seen much of that from the tourists….

The ordinance does not appear to impose any fee for camping on city property.

Commissioner Mike Villanueva expressed concern that this ordinance could be used to prosecute parents who let their kids camp out in the back yard without calling the city for permission. City attorney Den Herder assures the community that “the YPD will be instructed to take a very ‘hands-off’ approach to enforcement in residential neighborhoods” and would only look into backyard tents if neighbors complain.


  1. Sheldon 2023-01-27 10:23

    They could have easily fixed the problem with backyard camping by adding a statement about allowing camping on personal private property.

  2. jakc 2023-01-27 10:38

    So now they have a law that they don’t intend to enforce most of the time but can enforce if they feel like it. Wonderful philosophy.

  3. KOREY V. JACKSON 2023-01-27 11:27

    Seems like a rather ominous ordinance for those of us who have quarantined after exposures to infectious diseases in an RV in the yard or driveway.

    The ordinance is also a dissuasion for private businesses to participate in the rapidly growing “Harvest Hosts” .

  4. e platypus onion 2023-01-27 12:06

    “Hands Off” likely means shooting on sight. Wonder if this ordinance is aimed towards the homeless?

  5. Mark Anderson 2023-01-27 12:34

    Would have ruined my High School camping trips.

  6. Jake 2023-01-27 12:39

    I think this might be aimed subtly at the homeless problem, not tourists….. I agree with e platypus.

  7. grudznick 2023-01-27 14:27

    Keep the cardboard campers confined. Don’t put them in jail where it is warm and there is meatloaf and eggs for breakfast.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2023-01-27 15:46

    An issue when cities host large, multiday music festivals and celebrations. They want the people but not their refuse and other blight.

  9. Mark Anderson 2023-01-27 18:12

    Arlo, check out Gasparilla in Tampa this week. Always wanted to go but with 300,000 to 400,000 showing up parking, hotel, camping, all are huge problems.

  10. grudznick 2023-01-28 15:40

    None of the swell fellows I know over in Yankton would set up a cardboard base camp for recreational purposes. This is aimed at those trespassing vagabond fellows who lurk down by the river in the warmer months. Fellows not invited to come spend the winter with my good friend Lar in New Mexico.

  11. JNNelsen 2023-01-30 09:47

    Is this protection for legitimate campground facilities from the Walmart campers? The proliferation of RV’s by the dam and surrounding areas of Gavin’s Point have changed that area, and not for the good. I fear the Yankton community leaders are a little late to the game, the RV / camping cat is out of the bag.

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