The Longmont City Council clarified rules related to illegal camping on public lands and updated the hours of operation for neighborhood parks during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

“The apparent reason for the change is to address the homeless issue at Lanyon Park and maybe a handful of other parks,” Longmont resident Paula Fitzgerald said during the public comment period at Tuesday’s meeting. “To take a blanket approach to the entire city because of issues at Lanyon is unreasonable.”

City staff proposed various changes to the municipal code, including adding a definition for the word “camping” in the public lands chapter.

Specifically, camping would mean to reside or dwell in a place by using or erecting a shelter, other than the park-provided shelters, “including a tent.”

The city strictly prohibits camping and alcohol consumption in all of its neighborhood and community parks, unless permitted for a specific event.

Napping or picnicking for a period of two hours or less per calendar day would not be considered camping.

“Is there something we’re missing as to why the community feels like they’re not being heard?” Councilmember Shiquita Yarbrough asked. “Because, we’ve been talking about this for a long time.”

In addition to defining camping, city staff also proposed updating hours of operation for all neighborhood parks, nature areas, greenways and dog parks to be from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, which the Council agreed to.

However, lighted facilities within neighborhood parks may remain open for their intended use until 10 p.m. in accordance with the proposed changes.

“Enforcing it is difficult,” Mayor Joan Peck said. “It’s not something you can just … draw a line and that’s it.”

Currently, the municipal code allows people to use neighborhood or community parks as well as public breezeways and microplazas from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

The city differentiates between neighborhood and community parks within its municipal code with neighborhood parks referring to those that provide “recreation activities near a residential area” and community parks meaning those that serve the “larger community” and provide spaces for “athletic and recreation facilities.”

The new hours of operation will go into effect once the City Council passes the ordinance on second reading, likely later this month.

While much of Tuesday night’s dialogue focused on illegal camping, drug activity and vandalism at Lanyon Park, city staff insisted that those problems have also occurred in other areas of the city, like Carr Park.

“We saw all kinds of bad behavior from all kinds of people,” Longmont assistant city manager Sandra Seader said. “I want to be clear that it’s not an issue of homelessness, although that is one of the things that we’re working on trying to provide help for people.”

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Matthew Bennett
2022-05-11 04:09:11
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