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New rules for “camping” in parks could be debated by La Crosse council



FILE: Randy Whitney, a homeless man staying in Cameron Park, was ticketed for $124 back in August of 2020 (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

La Crosse’s city council could make changes to the city’s definition of “camping” in parks during meetings Thursday night.

A proposed ordinance would make it illegal to set up a campsite in any La Crosse park where there are signs prohibiting that activity, or if the camper has been warned to leave.

Coulee Tenants United is opposed to what it calls “criminalizing poverty.”

It posted, “La Crosse City Council is voting on criminalizing our unhoused neighbors from using city parks for basic survival activities.”

The group asks neighbors to come to the meeting or email the city council to oppose the legislation it says, “criminalizes poverty, vilifies our unhoused neighbors, and fails to provide substantive support for the systemic issues of housing unaffordability.”

The proposal follows about two years of extended camping by homeless people within certain city parks, including most of last winter at Houska Park. Houska had to be closed after a deadline was set for campers to move out, and much of the garbage-filled park was cleared by bulldozers.

Agenda: https://cityoflacrosse.legistar.com/LegislationDetail…

Register for public comment: https://www.cityoflacrosse.org/city…/meeting-registration

Email written comment: [email protected] and [email protected]

The council may also take initial votes on funding of police facilities and fire equipment. The monthly council meeting begins Thursday at 6 p.m. at La Crosse City Hall, and it is also livestreamed.

Garbage is piled outside La Crosse’s Houska Park on Mar. 15th, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Tony

    June 8, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    No thanks! We’re against “camping” in the park. The parks are for the majority of citizens to use for a while, then leave so someone else can have the opportunity. The limited green spaces in our city were never intended to have a group who sets up camp and takes them over! Time to clean house. We want our city back.

  2. Robert harvey

    June 9, 2023 at 5:33 am

    Escort them out of town or make them work at good will for voucher to stay at parks

    • joyce e capps

      June 9, 2023 at 3:52 pm

      Why does the mayor insist on catering to the homeless? They do not contribute to society and by the looks of the trash they cost the city to clean it up. Actually they cost the tax payers, the same ones who’s taxes also build and maintain the parks. The tax payers are unable to use the parks when they are taken over by the homeless. Why not buy a farm away from the city and make it the new homeless camp, could even grow their own food in gardens. A plus would be the homeless would not be so close to drug dealers and liquor stores!!

  3. Jeff

    June 9, 2023 at 7:00 am

    Well, I agree that being poor should not be a crime to be poor. I also believe that the individuals who live down by the park have a right to be safe. We have the right to not have our delivery drivers harassed as they’re trying to deliver food. We have the right to not have to walk through pee on the way out of our building. The homeless have been destroying the park. It is time for the destruction of city property to stop.

  4. Dori Walsh

    June 9, 2023 at 8:50 pm

    This has become an issue with our community observing the loitering and mess created. Accountability needs to be enforced. Our city taxes supported a dog park, and a play park which has been destroyed. Unfortunately it becomes a teaching moment with income, expenses and priorities. Those able to work, should, there are plenty of jobs. Taking advantage of the system with taxpayer money has become the norm.

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