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.

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