No camping from downtown to Manitou
County resolution ensures consistent enforcement along Fountain Creek through Westside

       The Board of El Paso County Commissioners weighed in April 6 with a no-camping resolution of its own.

ABOVE: An area on the north bank of Fountain Creek, just west of I-25, is seen this week after the departure of transient residents and a cleanup by Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful.
BELOW: The same area in November 2008.
Westside Pioneer photos


       Based on the state criminal code, the new law is similar in intent to the February Colorado Springs ordinance - as well as a Manitou Springs law that has been on the books since 1978.
       The wording makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to “use or erect living accommodations” on public county land, according to the unanimously approved motion by Westside-residing Commissioner Sallie Clark.
       She urged passage to bring about consistent prosecution countywide. Along Fountain Creek on the Westside, for example, there are county “pockets” where transients could legally pitch tents. “We really need to get moving on this because the problem is migrating to county land,” she told the other commissioners. “The resolution will aid the safety and security of our neighborhoods.”
       Sheriff Terry Maketa emphasized that he plans to employ the resolution compassionately, in the spirit of the Colorado Springs Police Department's HOT team, which uses warnings to trigger campers to take action and has not yet had to issue a ticket. “I believe this is something we can work with,” he said. “Colorado Springs has had a lot of success without rising to the level of charging people.”
       At the request of Assistant County Attorney Lori Seago, the effective date for the county resolution will be June 1. That will allow officials time to clearly “define what is county property,” as well as to set up a location to store confiscated tents and backpacks (if necessary), she said at the meeting.
       Urging passage of the law at the meeting was Steve Bailey, board member of the volunteer Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), who said that consistent enforcement of no-camping laws would allow people “to enjoy public lands without fear of safety and intimidation issues.”
       Another speaker was Robert Maez, co-founder and head of the Avenue Merchants group (representing the commercial area west of 31st Street). “We find that the homeless have benefitted from the passing of the city ordinance,” he said. Supporting those words, he quoted figures provided to him by Bob Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak, the city's umbrella agency for homeless issues, including the following: 355 former campers have been helped since the city law passed - of those 63 now have jobs, and 26 more have jobs lined up.
       Mike Crepeau, also a co-founder of the Avenue Merchants, said that before the ordinance passed, the area west of 31st was having regular problems with fires, assaults, trespassing, private property damage and windows and doors being kicked out. The commissioners passing a law like the city's “helps our businesses survive over there,” he said.
       Matt Carpenter, the successful altitude-distance runner and now Manitou Springs City Council member, read a resolution from his council supporting the county resolution. He said emphasized the desirability of a county resolution similiar to those already passed by the two cities.

Westside Pioneer article