Frederick officials plan to ban camping along Carroll Creek and set hours of operation in some city parks that do not already have them.
The proposal, discussed by aldermen during a meeting on Wednesday, stems from an earlier draft ordinance, which would have banned camping in all parks. That plan stalled following complaints that the city’s homeless population would be adversely affected.
Aldermen said they plan to hold another meeting soon to finalize details of the new ordinance, which would, among other things, set hours in City Hall Park, Memorial Park, Loats Park and McCurdy Field.
Carroll Creek Linear Park and Harry Grove Stadium would be excluded.
Currently there are no restrictions on camping beyond park hours, which are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in parks that have set hours.
Alderman Shelly Aloi said in a phone interview Thursday that Carroll Creek is being treated differently from the other parks because of the creek’s use as a mode of transportation.
“Carroll Creek is a place of transportation, it’s not only a park,” she said.
In advocating for restrictions on use of the city’s parks, some cited concerns over misuse of the parks.
“The problem that I’m trying to solve is people sleeping along the creek overnight, defecating on the property, leaving garbage behind, disrupting citizens, scaring them,” said Alderman Karen Young (D). “That’s the issue I’m trying to solve. I’m concerned that we are near the tipping point [for this issue].”
However, Young said, some are concerned that a ban on camping or sleeping in parks could go too far in infringing on personal rights.
The aldermen began discussing a camping ban after about 15 people took part in an Occupy Frederick encampment along Carroll Creek in January.
Now, some aldermen say there is a greater problem with unhygienic behavior in the park.
“There is a line that needs to be drawn as to what is acceptable and what is not, scaring away families and businesses is not in the best interests of our city,” said Karlis Kline, city resident. “We’re sliding down a slippery slope.”
While some aldermen and residents said Wednesday they understand the problems around Carroll Creek are not necessarily a result of the homeless, others are concerned that the proposed ordinance could affect the city’s homeless population and limit freedom of speech.
“Our duty is to help [the homeless],” said the Rev. Samuel Williams, Paster House of David Ministries. “Really, your ordinance is not about the parks. Your ordinance is really a question of character, can people really get along along the Carroll Creek park, can it be enforceable?”
The board will be discussing remedies to homelessness as part of their July 18 workshop.
Barry Kissin, of Frederick, said the city’s existing laws already prohibit many of the behaviors the board is trying to curb with the camping ban.
“Of course you have to take [the complaints] seriously,” he said. “ The complaints I’m hearing...are already subject to regulation already, you’re not allowed to litter, you’re not allowed to make too much noise, you’re not allowed to block someone’s passage.”