County supervisor wants to lift camping ordinance for homeless
Dane County Park Commission has rejected proposal
MADISON, Wis. — A Dane County supervisor is proposing reducing camping restrictions to help address short-term homelessness issues in the county.
Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner is proposing lifting the 14-day camping restriction at Lake Farm Park near Lake Waubesa for those who are homeless.
County rules require campers to leave for 48 hours every 14 days.
“These folks don’t have another house to go to. They don’t have any other options,” Wegleitner said. “There are some simple things, we think, we can do right now with existing county spaces and facilities to provide more access to homeless folks.”
Wegleitner’s proposed ordinance would eliminate the 14-day rule for the rest of the camping season for only three camp sites at Lake Farm Park.
She said it’s one step towards dealing with a much bigger issue.
“We also of course really are pushing for permanent, lasting solutions, and that’s really housing, more low-income housing,” Wegleitner said.
While many agree there is a definite need among the local homeless population, not everyone agrees that camping is the answer. The Dane County Park Commission has rejected the idea.
“When I looked at making specific changes to one group within a regular campground, I did not feel that that was appropriate,” said Darren Marsh, director of Dane County Parks.16045996
The Dane County Park Commission unanimously rejected the idea Wednesday night, with leaders saying, in part, that rules are rules.
But the debate is not over. Wegleitner is hoping her colleagues can see how big of an issue this is and approve a plan that could help partially fill a huge gap.
“We don’t want to just sit and wait. We want to address the needs now in creative ways that I don’t think are asking a whole lot,” Wegleitner said.
The proposal still needs to make its way through a number of committees before it gets to the Dane County Board for a final vote.
County supervisors are also considering a separate proposal that would set aside money for a day shelter for the county’s homeless population.