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Grass Valley Council to weigh rules on camping, smoking, weapons in city parks

Homelessness will be the hot topic of a town-hall style community discussion hosted by the Grass Valley City Council on Oct. 11.

The forum, announced Monday, will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 125 E. Main St., as the city seeks input on concerns and ideas to better address homelessness and the impact on the community.

However, council members will get a chance to deal with some issues surrounding homelessness at 7 p.m. today, when they will consider tighter regulations against camping, smoking, weapons and bathing within public parks through a series of amendments to the municipal code.



According to the agenda of tonight’s regularly scheduled meeting, the purpose of the proposed changes is to enhance the ability of city departments to ensure safety and enjoyment in parks and recreational facilities.

The chance to increase regulations comes in the wake of a 40-acre fire believed to have been started by local transient. However, city staff who had a hand in drafting the report are says the proposed changes are not in reaction of the Sept. 17 wildland fire.




“It’s something on the list of things to get done,” Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard said Monday afternoon. The desired effect of the amendment is to cut down on littering and to address the health and safety aspect of park users, Gammelgard said.

“That being said, we live in a forested area,” he added, and regulations on smoking is “wise fire prevention policy.”

While Grass Valley’s downtown already has a no-smoking ordinance in place, current municipal code does allow for designation of public smoking areas within parks. The proposed amendments will take that option away.

“Most of it is just getting us up to date,” Public Works Director Tim Kiser said. “Smoking in the parks is pretty much banned.”

There are currently no designated smoking areas in any Grass Valley parks, said Kiser, who said the original ordinance was created more than 30 years ago and that signs referencing designated smoking areas have since been removed due to vandalism.

“Over the years there has been changes in the way people perceive smoking,” Kiser said. “We’re catching up with the times.”

In addition to the prohibition of smoking in parks, language was added to the ordinance that will ban the smoking and use of marijuana, regardless if for recreational or medicinal uses.

Additional amendments to the municipal code address camping in city parks and if approved will disallow the usage of any camping items, including beds, bedrolls, tarpaulins, cots, sleeping bags, hammocks and/or similar equipment.

An updated definition of weapons, including knives, dirks, daggers or swords exceeding 3 inches, as well as razor-blade knives, has also been added to the amended municipal code ordinance, as well as a stipulation to prohibit bathing or washing in waterways of any lake, pond, pool, fountain, creek, river, or other waterway within any park or recreation area of the city. The amendment does not prohibit swimming in waterways, however.

Wolf Creek abatement

In a related item, the council is expected to give direction regarding the fate of an area of Wolf Creek that was recently cleared of homeless encampments and surrounding rubbish. The council will have the opportunity to suggest a temporary access road used to clean up the rubbish, be turned into a trail, or returned to its original state.

City staff removed more than 200 cubic yards of garbage, debris, and human waste, and upon completion of the clean up, received suggestions from several individuals that the access would make a “great trail”.

Staff originally planned to restore the temporary access road but felt that the trail alternative might be more appropriate for the community, according to the staff report. If approved, the council will return at a future meeting with more details on the implementation of the project and a potentially larger city trail system.

To contact Staff Writer Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230


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