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Toni Davis walks Thursday through her camp next to Carberry Creek near Applegate Lake. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Camping crackdown

Toni Davis pulled her SUV and utility trailer into her favorite pullout next to Carberry Creek Thursday to set up a camp that will become her latest temporary home, this time next to two other long-stay campers a stone's throw away.

Just as Davis set up her elaborate camp, the other campers broke theirs but left the place a dirty, dangerous mess.

"Not only did they leave their garbage, they left a sleeping mattress and they left their fire going," says Davis, 59. "Not smoldering. Burning. I almost had kittens over it.

"Took me four buckets of water to put it out," she says. "It irks me that they do this."

Squatters like these also have irked Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest officials enough that they have enacted a new two-week maximum camping stay in large swaths of forestland covering both developed and undeveloped campgrounds as well as unofficial spots like beaches and meadows.

The new 14-day limit for camping within a 45-day period inside these "short-stay corridors" is designed to reduce the environmental degradation of areas associated with squatting, as well to keep people from hogging the best swimming holes and camping spots.

The corridors encompass a half-mile on each side of long sections of the Rogue, Illinois, Elk and Coquille rivers, as well as areas around the Ashland watershed, Applegate and Squaw lakes and several inland spots.

These areas have been identified as popular, easily accessed, unmanaged camping areas where long-term use has risen significantly in recent years, leading to damaged soils and vegetation as well as the dumping of human waste and garbage.

"It would prevent people from just creating a long-term camp to stay by the river when it gets hot," says forest spokeswoman Chamise Kramer.

"You can still stay longer than 14 days on forest land," she says. "You just can't stay in the same spot."

Enacted Monday, the new rule means even nomads like Davis can spend just 14 days of any 45-day period within any one of the zones. They must then move out of all the zones completely until the 45-day window expires, says Julie Martin, the forest's recreation program manager.

For instance, hunters who set up camps along Forest Road 64 between Prospect and Union Creek would have to pull up stakes after two weeks and head outside the corridor, Martin says.

"There's probably a lot of dispersed camping that can be found outside the river corridor," Martin says. "It's not a matter of availability, it's a matter of preference."

A similar rule expired in 2011, and since then forest officials have seen a growing misuse of dispersed camping areas not suitable for long-term stays, Kramer says.

Other areas included in the restriction are around Briggs Creek and Eden Valley, Bear Camp west of Galice, the entire lower Rogue, the Elk River and Coquille River corridors in Curry and Coos counties, and in some of the forest's more remote locations.

The restricted areas will be signed, and visitors can call the Forest Service about specific sites at 541-618-2200.

Martin says the forest plans to have maps available online denoting the corridors.

The new rule, which expires May 31, 2018, contains exemptions for search-and-rescue operations and wildland firefighting camps.

Violating the forest order is a federal crime punishable by up to six months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine for an individual or $10,000 for an organization.

Davis says she always thought the forest had a 14-day camping limit, and just moving a few feet would satisfy the requirement.

 "I try to follow it," she says. "I was here two weeks and a day, then back the next week. Here I am."

The sandy turn in Carberry Creek with a deep pool and plenty of shade is a good get for Davis and her elaborate camp, which includes a canopy, barbecue, outdoor kitchen and a gas generator to operate a small refrigerator and lights. There's even a small studio where she fashions gourds into etuis — small ornamental cases — that she sells online.

Home is wherever she parks the SUV and trailer since she and her dog Lion-Bear left a property outside of Murphy two months ago.

"I went from 10 acres to 10 feet," she says.

Each new space requires policing after the previous visitors, which almost always includes clearing wads of used toilet paper strewn about.

Homeless doesn't have to mean helpless.

"It's like nobody's heard of a shovel," Davis says. "The things people do."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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