Haines is filled with green space and recreation areas. Even though a number of those places are considered borough parks, they’re not officially defined that way in borough code. But that might change soon. At a meeting last week, the planning commission recommended an ordinance that would delineate parks in borough code.
Tlingit Park might be the most obvious example of an area in Haines used as a park. On a recent afternoon, there were kids playing on the swings and dog walkers strolling along the footpaths.
It looks like a park. But it and other recreation areas aren’t officially designated as such in borough code.
“Is Oslund Park a park?” asked Parks and Recreation Committee member Burl Sheldon at a planning meeting in May. “Not in Haines Borough Code. Is Emerson Field a park? Is Tlingit Park a park? Maybe. But it’s not specifically identified.”
This oversight in code came to light at the May meeting. Sheldon’s committee proposed the borough create a park out of an empty lot on Third and Main. That proposal didn’t gain traction because commissioners thought it might stifle commercial development.
But the commission did agree on the need to define parks in borough code.
Sheldon worked with planning commissioners Rob Goldberg and Heather Lende to draw up a proposed ordinance fixing the missing piece.
It’s pretty simple. The ordinance essentially defines a park as an area owned or controlled by the borough that is devoted to recreation. It specifically designates about a dozen areas as parks, including Tlingit Park, Picture Point, Lookout Park, Carr’s Cove, and Oslund Park.
“I think it’s important to define parks and the standard of use that our community expects in these places we call parks and specifically naming those parks in the code,” Sheldon said.
The ordinance also addresses camping in borough parks. It prohibits camping except during special events approved by the borough manager.
“A couple of years ago, we had an individual who camped in Tlingit Park all summer,” Sheldon said. “And that’s perfectly OK to do apparently because it’s not in code. With the new code, a simple approach was to say we’re going to prohibit two things. One is camping.”
The other prohibition is against cutting down trees in borough parks. Sheldon says the proposed ordinance is a starting place that could be amended in the future.
The planning commission approved the parks code proposal with little discussion. Next, it goes to the assembly for final approval.