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The Indiana Daily Student

bloomington

Policy prohibiting tents, other enclosed structures in public parks now in effect

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A new policy prohibiting tents and other enclosed structures in Bloomington public parks during the daytime hours went into effect Wednesday.

The rule’s enforcement comes a week after the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners unanimously passed the policy during a meeting Aug. 16. At the meeting, Paula McDevitt, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said that camping structures and makeshift enclosures prohibit the public use and enjoyment of parks.

“These camping structures and makeshift enclosures have become a serious public health risk and safety issue due to vandalism, illegal activity, the accumulation of abandoned property and garbage,” McDevitt said at the meeting.

McDevitt said the policy is not intended to prohibit structures that have been authorized by the Parks and Recreation Department’s special use permits or structures associated with park events, programs and tournaments. Instead, McDevitt said the policy prohibits shade structures located in areas where the activity beneath the structure is fully or partially obstructed from view. The policy also prohibits materials being placed around the structure that can obstruct views.

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Tim Street, city of Bloomington Operations and Development Director, said in a presentation to the board that Switchyard Park and Seminary Park reported high levels of security incidents. According to data included in his presentation, Switchyard Park reported approximately 500 incidents from August 2022 to July 2023, while Seminary Park reported slightly more than 400 incidents during the same time period. Many of these incidents were categorized as needed maintence, substance abuse, property damage or vandalism, unsafe conditions and spill messes. There were less reports of noise disturbances, theft, encampments, suspicious activity, needles, domestic disturbances, abandoned vehicles and trespassing, according to the presentation. Other Bloomington parks included in the presentation reported significantly less incidents. B-Line reported 200 incidents, the third largest number of security incidents.

Kyle Halvorsen, who works with unhoused individuals in his role with the Indiana Recovery Alliance, opposed the policy at the meeting during public comment.

“These are human beings — they are part of this community whether you like it or not,” Halvorsen said. “We have a giant population of unhoused community and there are so little resources for them.”

Bloomington police can enforce rules established by the Board of Park Commissioners under Indiana Code 36-10-4-9. Enforcement of the policy may include removing tents or makeshift enclosed structures, which will be collected and stored by the Parks and Recreation Department for at least 30 days, according to meeting documents. The Parks and Recreation Department may also temporarily suspend individuals who violate the policy from entering any park facility.

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