Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday is scheduled to consider an ordinance change the park board fears could lead to homeless encampments in the parks.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) has called for repealing the ordinance that prohibits overnight use of city parks.
In a memo to the committee, Parks Director Audrey Thompson says police records indicate arrests and tickets issued for overnight park use have declined substantially in recent years — from 16 in 2019 to three in 2021.
And she says the parks department “has not received any specific complaints about park hours not being sufficient to serve the community.”
Thompson says Parks and Recreation Board members raised a variety of objections to the proposed change during a meeting in February.
She listed them as:
- No precedent of any other municipality or park district not having park closing hours.
- No compelling reason to have 24/7 open park hours.
- Parks and green spaces need time to rest to recover properly.
- Increased patrolling of parks required if there were no park hours.
- The homeless population may migrate to our parks .
- Concerns about unauthorized usage of the park during overnight hours.
- Congregating in the parks near neighboring houses.
- Noise from parks disturbing neighbors.
Homeless encampments in parks have become an issue in a number of cities in recent years including at Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles, California, and Powerhorn Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where police have ultimately been called upon to clear the parks.
The Human Services Committee is also scheduled Monday to consider two other proposals from Reid to remove restrictions from the city code.
One change would eliminate an ordinance requiring “transient photographers” to obtain a license before taking photos on public property.
So far it appears no objection has been raised to that change.
The other would lift a ban on possession of burglar’s tools, including skeleton keys and lockpicks.
It’s not clear from the committee packet whether the police department plans to oppose that change.