Boulder, CO

Boulder outlaws tents in parks, regulates propane tanks

David Heitz

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In response to a growing number of homeless encampments, Boulder outlawed tents Tuesday in city parks.

The city also regulated propane tanks, large numbers of which have been amassed at some campsites.

The council approved the ordinance’s first reading Tuesday. It still will need to be voted on again to become law.

“The proposed ordinance is a health and safety measure that will reduce the costs for emergency response,” according to a city staff report. “Homelessness has a significant financial impact on the community. While interventions are costly, there is a net positive economic impact realized by making homelessness brief, rare, and nonrecurring.”

The encampments have been multiplying since 2016. While camping is banned in public spaces in Boulder, it has not been banned in parks specifically.

Homeless die in Boulder wild

According to a city staff report, people experiencing homelessness have died outside due to being unprepared for Boulder’s rapidly changing weather.

“Over the past year, staff have observed an increase in the incidence of methamphetamine use by the residents in these encampments,” the staff report states. “Concentrations of methamphetamine users are often marked by a higher level of violence, theft and methamphetamine paraphernalia.”

The staff report shows that people experiencing homelessness in Boulder represent almost every state. “Many individuals arriving in Boulder and camping in public spaces are not aware of the often rapidly changing and drastic swings in outdoor temperatures and are not prepared for camping safely in this environment. Several individuals die each year in Boulder while camping.

“While the coroner’s annual report indicates various causes of death, hypothermia and drug overdose are not uncommon.”

Propane tanks limited to one

The new law also regulates propane tanks. Portable propane tanks that attach to a heater or camping stove are allowed, but only one per person.

“The camping ordinance does not apply during the day and requires proof of ‘activities of daily living,’” staff lamented in the report. “This generally requires that encampments become entrenched before staff can act. Staff engaged in encampment clean-up efforts have removed hundreds of propane tanks, of which some staff believes are used in the manufacture of methamphetamine as well as cooking and heating tents.

“This coincides with an increase in thefts of propane tanks from lockers outside of various businesses as well as residential areas. The large number of propane tanks found in encampments present a significant public safety issue, because of the risk of explosion and fire.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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