8 tickets in 1st month of law denying camping within 100 feet of waterwaysAug. 26, 2018
A city ordinance declaring camps within 100 feet of public waterways legally unsafe passed Colorado Springs City Council and took effect July 23.
The date was memorable for Colorado Springs Police Lt. Michael Lux because that was a day when the city was hit with some of the heaviest rainfall it's seen in years, causing flooding all over town.
One of the stated purposes of the law was to prevent the drowning of campers, who are known to squat on creek banks or inside large drainage culverts.
Lux heads up CSPD's Downtown Area Response Team (which includes the Westside). In a late-August interview with the Westside Pioneer, he said that
He couldn't point to exact instances where police had saved campers' lives, but said he believes enforcement efforts are helping, by keeping tabs on popular waterway sites. While many campers are used to living outdoors and “prone to survive,” as Lux put it, it's also true that certain elements among them “can get intoxicated and die in just inches of water.”
As for where the displaced campers are going, he described a combination of circumstances, in which some sneak back to creekside places they like - particularly in the downtown or Westside - while others migrate to popular non-creek locations.
Prime squatting spots can even be looked up now on websites that support such lifestyles, Lux pointed out.
Urged by the Mayor's Office, the waterways law is also a question of water quality, according to City Stormwater Manager Richard Mulledy in presentations to council.
Although studies have not yet pinpointed pollution sources, the ordinance states that “persons camped within public streams and/or public stream riparian zones may urinate, defecate, bathe in, or otherwise contaminate stream waters, resulting in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.”
The ordinance also notes that the 100-foot distance from stream banks is used by the National Forest Service and National Park Service in their campgrounds.
Overnight camping on city land is already illegal, but is only enforced when officials believe there are enough shelter beds for all who need them. There is also an unofficial city policy to give campers 24-hour notice.
The waterways law, because of its safety aspect, is not contingent on such rules, based on council discussion.
Lux said that officers are typically giving campers an hour of warning, with some leeway if it takes them longer to pack up.
Under the law, violators could pay fines or even go to jail.
The law setting the July 23 start date was supported July 10 on final reading by six of the eight councilmembers present. Opposed were Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray, both of whom alleged that the law is biased against homeless people.
Those voting in favor were Richard Skorman, Don Knight, Tom Strand, Jill Gaebler, Merv Bennett and David Geislinger. Andy Pico was absent at that meeting, but had supported the ordinance on first reading. The Pioneer's article on the July 10 council meeting is at this link,
Westside Pioneer article