Camping ban bylaw under review
Arenas, parks and recreation committee to provide input next week
The municipal bylaw against camping in city parks, adopted by city council this summer as a homeless encampment had taken over Victoria Park, could soon be tweaked.
Council’s arenas, parks and recreation committee, a group of volunteers who advise council, was not consulted on the new parks bylaw before it was adopted in August.
City staff will consult with the advisory committee about the bylaw for the first time at a meeting on Tuesday, and then report back to council by the end of January with any changes the committee may recommend.
The bylaw was met with some objection from the public when it was adopted because it restricts many activities in parks such as swimming, cooking food or operating a drone or model airplane.
While advisory committees are often asked for input prior to the adoption of new policies, it didn’t happen this time.
Coun. Lesley Parnell, a council appointee to the parks advisory committee, pointed out Thursday that council adopted the bylaw at an emergency meeting in August — and advisory committees don’t meet in the summer.
Parnell also said bylaws are “regularly revisited” and tweaked from time to time.
“Our committee will review and make — or not make — recommendations,” she wrote in a text message.
“Ultimately the decision rests
with council on behalf of our constituents.”
The bylaw was designed primarily to curb camping in cityowned parks at a time when homeless people were setting up encampments here and there across Peterborough.
The largest encampment — with more than 40 tents — was in Victoria Park, which is owned by Peterborough County.
There were also smaller encampments in city-owned parks such as Riverside Park, and people camped on the lawn at city hall.
The campers started pitching their tents July 1, the day the Warming Room homeless shelter closed for good.
At the time, neither the county or the city had bylaws to explicitly ban overnight camping in parks.
During the same week in mid-August, both the city and county adopted new bylaws to curb overnight camping in parks.
However, both the city and county bylaws banned further activities in parks: people aren’t to drink alcohol in parks, for instance, or “engage in any sport or similar activity,” or even be present in a park between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m.
Coun. Kim Zippel, the city’s chairperson of parks and recreation, said the city didn’t have a bylaw restricting camping in public parks in the summer.
She said the idea behind next week’s advisory committee meeting — where city solicitor David Potts is scheduled to make a presentation — is to allow city staff to gather input from the committee (as stipulated by council at the time it adopted the bylaw in August).
Diane Sargent, the chair of the arenas, parks and recreation advisory committee, couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.
The committee meets at the city’s community services offices on Wolfe Street at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Meetings are open to the public.