Haines residents who spend time in Tlingit Park or Lookout Park may not know that those places are not officially designated as parks in borough code.
That gap came to light when the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee requested designating a downtown lot at Third and Main as a park. The idea didn’t gain traction with the planning commission. But, planners did decide to explore how to define parks in borough code.
You might wonder why having code on parks is important, since the places that are called parks right now are being used that way. At a meeting last week, planning commissioner Larry Geise asked, if it’s not broke, why fix it?
“I don’t see where we have a major problem with how it’s standing right now,” Geise said. “I mean, people are calling places parks, I understand that. But sometimes when you change things you don’t know what you’re getting into.”
But planning chair Rob Goldberg said there are some problems. He said there have been reports of someone camping out in Tlingit Park for months at a time.
“A lot of it has to do with not allowing camping because we have so many seasonal workers,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg said it would be preferable for campers to use campgrounds. On a similar note, he said, RVs should use RV parks. Goldberg and Commissioner Heather Lende said they’ve seen RVs parked overnight at Picture Point.
“I saw five RVs parked there at Picture Point and they didn’t look like they were going anywhere,” Goldberg said.
“It was like eight or nine the other morning,” Lende said. “There’s a sign there that says ‘no overnight parking.'”
Goldberg said if the borough were to define public parks in Code and put restrictions on camping and overnight RV parking in those places, it could help the situation.
“I think that having some regulations in Code might allow the police to go and knock on those people’s windows and say ‘excuse me, you’re not allowed to camp here overnight.'”
Interim Police Chief Josh Dryden said Monday that ‘tightening’ Code to prohibit RV parking and long-term camping in parks would be helpful.
The issue of RVs staying at Picture Point came up in a recent borough staff meeting. Interim Borough Manager Brad Ryan said there’s a sign prohibiting overnight parking at one of the Picture Point pull-outs, but there is no restriction at the other one. He said if it seems like that’s being abused, he would consider putting a sign up in the second pull-out. For now, Ryan said, it doesn’t seem like a problem.
Both Ryan and Dryden said they were unaware that camping at Tlingit Park was an issue.
In Wrangell, Code limits camping in borough parks to a period of 48 hours. It also says that vehicles are not allowed to park overnight in any borough park unless accompanied by campers in a tent.
In Petersburg, people who want to camp on borough property need a permit. But the Parks and Recreation Department says camping in borough parks is usually not allowed.
As for Haines, a committee made up of Goldberg, Lende and Parks and Rec representative Burl Sheldon will work together to answer the question of how to incorporate parks into borough code.