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Bend city councilors receive draft camping code feedback from invited community members at second roundtable

(Update: Adding video, comments from city council and invited representatives)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Bend city councilors held the second of two roundtable discussions Thursday to discuss the draft on camping codes on public rights of way and city-owned property in a less-formal setting. They received plenty of feedback from a variety of invited participants.

There were several themes from a variety of participants from public agencies, business groups, nonprofits and others – one being that small, attainable steps are needed, as well as ways to measure the success of any efforts and to be able to help those in crisis without rules that make them move and harder to find.

Mayor Gena Goodman Campbell said, "We believe Bend is a city for everyone."

Goodman Campbell said one theme of the feedback was "a gap" in that the safety of those who potentially must move more frequently “isn’t really addressed in this current code structure.” While state law and court rulings limit local governments to regulate time, manner and location of campsites, she said the time aspect would be especially challenging, based on issues being raised.

J Bar J Youth Services Program Manager Eliza Wilson said she formerly was homeless while in school said having to pick up and move all of her belongings every night would have made for an even more challenging existence, so a safe place to keep belongings also would be important.

"Having people move their area provides less stability that way," Wilson said.

Linda Long said if the rules prove too problematic, it will worsen the issue of campsites south of Bend near China Hat Road on U.S. Forest Service land.

Watch the full recording here:

https://youtu.be/ZlAsEj2s7hU

Local businesses voiced their concerns.

Bend Central District Business Association representative and Campfire Hotel General Manager Daniel Elder said, "It's kind of how do we operate our business of guests coming in, and not feeling safe. Employees are coming in and not feeling safe."

Bend Chamber CEO Katy Brooks asked, “What are the metrics we’re going to be using over time, so five years from now, we’re not sitting here, doing the same thing all over again?” She said the specifics are needed for how things will work day to day, down to the level of where will people be able to charge their phones.

The last group to provide feedback was public agencies.

Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair acknowledged that the numbers of homeless are rising and that hundreds are living off China Hat Road, but also pointed to success stories like the Central Oregon Veterans Village, which has graduated six people from its program, and the need to duplicate such successful programs.

Central Oregon Irrigation District Kelley Hamby said, "I think for me -- I'm hoping that we can get some guidance. We're essentially following ODOT's plan."

Deschutes National Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes noted the constraints they operate under, including limited resources and the impact of court rulings. “Typically, when we come across an illegal camp, our main concern is natural resource damage, followed by public safety,” she said.

Jewkes added, "As we move people from different places they go somewhere else."

At the conclusion, Goodman-Campbell thanked all involved for their feedback and said: "You've given us a lot to think about."

Councilors will discuss the feedback on the draft code and what steps to take now during a work session at their next meeting next Wednesday evening.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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