Council wrestles with overcrowding in city parks

With the increase in the number of visitors to the Lake Chelan Valley, all area parks are seeing an increase in use, including Riverwalk Park in Chelan. RuthEdna Keys/LCM

CHELAN - Fourth of July weekend brought crowds back to Chelan and the city had decided not to employ Phoenix Protective Corporation to limit capacity at the city’s two parks. Covid Pandemic restrictions had been lifted as of June 30. City administrator Wade Farris had directed City Attorney to research options for using a security firm to again restrict access to the park absent the restrictions of the Covid Pandemic lockdown.
City Attorney Quentin Batjer reviewed some of the legal challenges facing the city in trying to restrict peoples’ access to the park. Those included First Amendment and Constitutional rights in limiting peoples’ right to assemble as well as Equal Protection laws which limit the ability to discriminate on who can and cannot, enter the parks. Other issues include how to establish the fact that people being denied entry are actually parked illegally creating a public safety hazard.
City administrator Farris reported that he had talked with the Sheriff’s deputy on duty on the 4th of July and he reported that he had issued lots of tickets for illegal parking. People were parked all along Highway 97A and on city streets all the way up to the hospital. There were many who were double parked. It was clearly a safety hazard with kids running down the street.
The good news is it was mostly families in the park and so there wasn’t a lot of drinking, but it was chaotic and I am concerned that with the hot weather we are going to see this problem continue through the rest of the summer. Last year we limited the parking and park access unless you were a resident and could prove that with a driver’s license or utility bill.
Erin McCardle, expressed her concerns that we are blending multiple problems. We have been talking about the parking problems for years and look back at pictures from the 50’s and 60’s of Don Morse Park. It was overcrowded back then. How do we decide how many people in the park is too many? “
I also have problems with how do we decide which families get in and which ones don’t,” said McCardle “I would much rather see families than a bunch of college kids with their beer pong set up down on the beach.”
McCardle also expressed her concerns that the security at the gate was not really addressing the safety problem of people walking down the middle of the street or parking illegally.
Peter Jamtgaard agreed with McCardle that limiting access to the park was not addressing the real problem. We have four times the amount of parking outside of Don Morse Park so limiting people in the park is not the problem. We need better parking enforcement.   
One Councilman took exception to the issue of increasing ticketing. He said he felt issuing tickets sends a bad message to tourists.
After much debate council authorized the hiring of Phoenix Protective Corporation to control park access through Labor Day Weekend.
In other Business:
Council approved $6,460 to replace the multiparameter probe for monitoring the water quality in Lake Chelan
Council approved a measure to execute a Professional Services Agreement Amendment with Erlandsen & Associates for the survey portion of a Parks Maintenance Building Project.
Authorized Emergency repairs to a sewer infrastructure repair on Evergreen Street
 Over the 4th of July weekend the sewer line on Evergreen Street at Lakeside ruptured. It was a 60 year old eight inch concrete line. The rupture caused sewage to flow out over the street. Emergency pumps were secured and a new 10 inch PVC line was installed to repair the breach.

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