A discussion of tents.

I am always a little amused by the number of people who say something is illegal without knowing what the law says. This is exactly what happened on Facebook over the weekend. Someone asked if they could rent a campsite on someone’s property and everyone jumped all over her saying it was not allowed on the island. It’s easy to check.

Camping is possible and legal on Nantucket if you have permission from the property owner. This is a bylaw adopted in 1979. Apparently back then there was a lot more open space and we had a “hippy” problem. ? Of course, you would also need to adhere to the laws around the disposal of waste, etc. That’s where it gets tricky. I recall there was a woman maybe ten years ago who was renting out tent sites on her property but apparently she ran afoul of the board of health and was quietly closed down. Here’s the town code: 

§ 64-1
No person shall, between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., set up on any property, public or private, without permission of the owner thereof, a camp or tent or sleep in the open or in a vehicle within the territorial limits of the Town of Nantucket.
§ 64-2
Violations and penalties.
Any person violating this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200 for each offense.

This means, if the Land Bank or the Conservation Foundation wanted to create a camping site for tourists on the island somewhere, they certainly could. The problem then would be people would fill up the campsites year-round because of the crazy cost of housing here and the tourists would not be able to access them. 

This is a good discussion to have. But the discussion should not be, is living in a tent legal or not; the discussion should be, as a community, when people resort to living in tents or their car because of the insanity around the housing market, what can and should we do about it? 

These are the kinds of discussions for which I created the Nantucket Owners Manual. G.