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New rule prohibits tents and other enclosed buildings in public parks



Bloomington, Indiana – Wednesday marked the start of a new rule that forbids tents and other enclosed structures in public parks in Bloomington during the day.

The regulation was adopted by the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners in a unanimous vote on August 16 and was put into effect a week later. Paula McDevitt, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, stated during the meeting that improvised enclosures and camping shelters are prohibited from being used and enjoyed by the public in 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.

According to McDevitt, the regulation is not meant to forbid buildings connected to events, activities, and competitions held in parks that have been approved by the Parks and Recreation Department’s special use licenses. Rather, according to McDevitt, the regulation forbids shade structures from being erected in places where the activity underneath the structure is completely or partially hidden from view. The guideline forbids the placement of any materials near the structure that might hinder views.

In a presentation to the board, Tim Street, director of operations and development for the city of Bloomington, mentioned that Switchyard Park and Seminary Park had high rates of security incidents. Data from his presentation shows that between August 2022 and July 2023, Switchyard Park reported over 500 events, whilst Seminary Park reported slightly more than 400 incidents. A large number of these instances were labeled as requiring maintenance, drug misuse, property destruction or vandalism, dangerous situations, and spill problems. According to the presentation, there were fewer reports of noise complaints, theft, encampments, suspicious activities, needles, domestic problems, abandoned vehicles, and trespassing. Other parks in Bloomington that were included in the presentation reported a lot fewer incidences. The third-highest number of security issues was recorded by B-Line, with 200 instances.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Kyle Halvorsen, who works with homeless people with the Indiana Recovery Alliance, voiced his opposition to the policy.

“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.”

Indiana Code 36-10-4-9 permits the Bloomington police to carry out the Board of Park Commissioners’ regulations. Tents and temporary enclosed structures may be taken down as part of the enforcement of the policy; these items will be collected and kept by the Parks and Recreation Department for at least 30 days, according to meeting materials. Individuals who breach the policy may also have their access to all park facilities temporarily suspended by the Parks and Recreation Department.

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