Council set to approve parks-code updates in January

Updates to Redmond’s parks code are set to be approved at the Jan. 2 city council meeting following a public hearing on Dec. 5.

The rules update has been in the works since last April when the council was initially briefed on possible changes.

Many of the proposed modifications simply update language and clarify what the penalties for violating the code would be.

The code was last updated in the 1990s, and many criminal and civil violations were retained.

Staff reported to the council that the main objective of the update was to develop a code that met modern needs for parks and trails and promoted positive behavior.

All parks will be tobacco free if the proposal passes, and smoking or chewing tobacco, or using electronic cigarettes, would be a misdemeanor and could carry a punishment of up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail.

Other misdemeanors include being in a park after hours, loitering in restrooms and recreation facilities, interfering with trails and mooring any kind of watercraft in a swimming area.

Feeding wildlife, as well as harming native animals or park property is also a misdemeanor in the code.

Other infractions, which could result in a $500 civil fine, include flying drones in the park, improperly parking, docking boats overnight or letting dogs off a leash or onto swimming beaches.

Tents are prohibited unless there are two sides that can be seen through, and overnight camping is still prohibited.

Extended hours will be established by city staff in coming weeks for special permit events.

Council member John Stilin asked at the meeting if there could be exceptions made in the final ordinance that would allow pedestrian commuters to use the trails after hours.

The code was placed on the Jan. 2 consent agenda for the council.

Part of the update clarified the city’s position on camping on public land to bring it into compliance with a court ruling known as the Boise Decision, which essentially bars cities from sweeping homeless people from public land if there are no shelter beds available.

Camping in parks is currently illegal under city code, and this will be retained under the new rules.

Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson said her department follows a policy that is in line with the ruling.

There is no camping allowed in city parks or trails, but if there are no shelter beds available for homeless people sleeping in other public spaces, the police cannot move them.

“That conforms with the Boise Decision,” Wilson said.

Redmond police, Wilson said, frequently approach unsheltered people and try to connect them with city and housing resources.

Wilson said officers generally don’t see people sleeping in parks and that community input was taken into account when drafting their regulations.

“Our community had some really strong feelings towards our parks and trails and preserving the open space of them,” she said. “This really provides just some clarity for our staff all the way across the city.”

In previous coverage from May, city staff said the rules update was proposed following a large increase in population since 1994 when the last rules were passed.

In 1994, Redmond had a population of 41,000, which had grown to nearly 60,000 as of 2016.

Many new parks were opened in that time, and more are scheduled to come on line soon, such as the Downtown Park, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

The city owns nearly 50 parks encompassing more than 1,350 acres and more than 36 miles of trails.

The current code includes outdated and confusing language like prohibitions on being a “peddler, fakir, mendicant, beggar, strolling musician, organ grinder, exhorter, barker, showman or bootblacks,” in parks.

Circuses, carnivals and traveling exhibitions were also banned without permits, and this language was also updated.

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