It’s been 44 days since tents started going up at Peterborough County-owned Victoria Park.
The campers moved to the park after the warming room shelter closed on July 1.
At its special council meeting on Wednesday, council unanimously approved two new bylaws to prohibit camping in its two parks within the city limits – Victoria Park and Heritage Jail Park.
“All the county is trying to do is to return our Victoria Park to its natural state so everyone can enjoy it,” said J. Murray Jones, county warden. “Before that happens, we want to make sure all the campers and those in need are looked after.”
“Our first priority was to always work with the city to provide the services that need to be provided to those in the park,” said Sheridan Graham, the county’s director of corporate projects and services. “The bylaw today is a municipal tool to ensure public safety. Again, the priority is always to work with and understand what the reasons are and what we can do as a society at all levels to assist.”
In approving the two bylaws, the county is following the city’s lead.
On Monday night, after a heated exchange that saw residents staying at tent city address councillors over their possible eviction, council passed two bylaws to prohibit camping in its municipal parks without permits.
The bylaws now allow Peterborough police to evict campers, but they haven’t been given the go-ahead because there is no solution to the homelessness issue.
“My impression is no, it’s going to be a gradual progression for people to go elsewhere. We have no intention to go in there with a SWAT team and get rid of them,” added Jones.
According to Jones, there was never any thought of handing over ownership of the park to the city to deal with the issue.
Peterborough County does not have a contract with the OPP to patrol and enforce the bylaw at the park.
It will defer enforcement to the city.
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