Grants Pass looking to add ‘buffers’ to curb camping in public parks

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Park buffers could soon be coming to Grants Pass.

On Monday, city attorney, Augustus Ogu, laid out a plan to add buffers at city parks.

“All the buffers do is prevent the erection of portable structures, so there’s still going to be available space for people to sleep and rest in all the parks,” he said.

The proposal includes adding a 20 foot buffer around sidewalks, athletic areas and structures

A larger 50 foot buffer would surround play areas.

Although people can sit and sleep in these buffers, portable structures, such as tents, would not be allowed.

Despite an injunction limiting the removal of people sleeping or camping in public parks, the city’s attorney believes this ordinance would not violate the injunction.

“I think it strikes a balance because it doesn’t affect where people can sleep or rest and there’s still adequate space in other parks around the city that allow for the ejection of portable structures,” Ogu said.

Grants Pass police chief Warren Hensman says enforcing the new ordinance will be a challenge.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult, I do,” he said. “But we’ve never shied away from a challenge, I think we’ll be able to figure it out.”

Last month, the city announced Riverside Park would be closed for a month, to clean up the park amid public safety concerns.

In this proposed plan there is an exception for Riverside Park, east of 6th street.

That side of the park will not be allowed to have any portable structures.

Councilors don’t get to vote on the park buffers until Wednesday, though at this time it appears many support it.

“I want our lawyers to get back as much of our parks as they possibly can,” councilor Rob Pell said.

“We need to have these regulations as much to promote safety and use of the park by everyone,” councilor Joel King said.

“I like the 20 foot walk ways for like what you said, people who are walking, but I think it’s imperative we do the playgrounds,” councilor Valerie Lovelace said.

If councilors vote unanimously to implement the park buffers, Riverside Park will re-open this week.

However, it could be closed two more weeks, if councilors cannot come to an agreement on Wednesday.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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