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Missoula City Council Votes to Close Parks at Night

Jan 26, 2024

Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - At a meeting that lasted past midnight on Monday, the Missoula City Council voted on a temporary emergency measure to close city parks from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.

KGVO News spoke to Ward 6 City Councilor Sandra Vasecka late Tuesday afternoon about the extended public meeting.

"Basically what happened was in order to comply with the Ninth Circuit Court's Boise decision, we needed to strike some things from our municipal code regarding parks and the hours of parks," began Vasecka. "And so we basically just had to add in something that said that we are closing the parks at nighttime. So originally it was from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. But then Daniel Carlino had an amendment to change it to 5:00 a.m."

Vasecka said closing the park at night will help discourage the building of semi-permanent tent villages in the city parks.

"I was supportive of this motion because it will discourage campers from coming up with big structures because once you have a big campsite then each night you can just keep adding on to it and adding on to it," she said. "So this will discourage having actual structures in the park so that we can use our trails and our park system like the property taxpayers that we are."

Two of the city council members were opposed to closing the parks overnight.

"Kristen Jordan and Daniel Carlino, I believe, didn't want that part, although Kristen Jordan did abstain, however, Daniel basically said that this would be criminalizing homelessness and saying that you can't punish people for just existing. But I mean, we're a civilized society. We have rules and I disagreed with Daniel on that one."

Vasecka was careful to point out that the ordinance adopted by the city council Monday night was temporary until the council can craft a permanent solution to the problem of urban camping.

"This was an emergency ordinance, so it will be in effect for basically the summer months for 90 days, and I believe it took effect immediately after the vote happened," she said. "We also set a public hearing for some time at the end of June that basically would make it so that it would actually be in (city) code and not just an emergency ordinance. So I would encourage everybody if you are in favor of the ordinance or against the ordinance, whichever way, I would encourage your listeners to come and speak their minds about that."

Vasecka did not have an answer to where homeless persons should go at night if the city parks are closed.

Responses from Mayor Jordan Hess and other members of council can be found here.