Metro Parks Tacoma working to put a stop to illegal camping

VIDEO: Metro Parks Tacoma working to put a stop to illegal camping

TACOMA, Wash. — Parks in Tacoma have become an attraction for homeless people setting up tents and spending the daylight hours camping. Metro Parks Tacoma wants to put a stop to it.

Tamara Knarr says she's been homeless off and on for years. “I was homeless for 15 years because of my felony background,” said Tamara Knarr. She spends her days at People’s Park and Martin Luther and S. 9th streets. “Because due to the that my friends are here and I feel safer,” said Knarr

The lawn of the small park in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood is virtually covered with tents. Less than a mile away tents are scattered around Wright Park under the shade of tall trees.

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Tents and day camper are popping up in other parks in Tacoma. Now Metro Parks Tacoma is considering the first major change to its rules in a decade to deal with the growing problem. Several other activities could be prohibited by the rules change, including drones, e-scooters, and vaping.

Open canopies would be still be allowed, but closed tents are being targeted because park officials claim they are often used to hide illegal activity from law enforcement.

“And what police have told us it's the walls, without the visibility, we can’t see what’s going on in those tents. And they don’t have the authority,” said Metro Parks Director of Communications Hunter George.

On Tacoma’s east side Charlotte's Blueberry has also become a haven for homeless day campers. Some parents said they worry about the crime, trash, and even used hypodermic needles left behind by people camping in the park.

“I prefer that they don’t,” said Elizabeth, who asked us not to use her last name. “It makes me feel a little less safe.” Her friend, Crystal, who had come to pick blueberries with her children agreed. “You don’t want to have to worry about every single step your children are taking in a public park,” she said.

The rules change must first be approved by Metro Parks board before it is sent to the Tacoma City Council for a vote. Until then a public comment link has been established for community input here.

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