MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen Committee on Traffic and Public Safety recommended an ordinance change that would modify what items are allowed within public parks.
In recent years, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have added a new ordinance prohibiting camping and fires within public parks and this ordinance modification would add the use of tarps, umbrellas or “structures” as things prohibited “for the use of camping” without the permission of the Department of Public Works Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division.
The proposed ordinance would also prohibit the possession of a shopping cart in any city park or more than one bicycle per person within a park.
Ward 12 Alderman Erin George-Kelly requested a discussion on the topic before it went to a vote, stating that the item should be tabled until Manchester Director of Homeless Initiatives Schonna Green can be replaced.
George-Kelly also feared that the provision would have the effect of making the city’s houseless population feel unwelcome in the city’s parks.
Manchester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division Chief Mark Gomez told the committee that the intent of the ordinance change is to clarify the existing ordinance, stating that everyone, including the city’s homeless population, is welcome within city parks.
George-Kelly’s viewpoint was challenged by comments from Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long and Ward 10 Alderman and Committee Chairman Bill Barry, who believed the matter could not wait until a replacement for Green was found.
Long told the committee that he has heard from constituents saying parks have been taken over by people with shopping carts.
“It’s unfortunate because it’s probably just a few people that ruin it for others,” said Barry.
Barry, Long, Stewart and Ward 6 Alderman Sebastian Sharonov voted in favor of the recommendation with George-Kelly voting in opposition.
The proposed ordinance change will still have to receive approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Committee on Bills on Second Reading and the full board before becoming ordained and enrolled into the city charter.
A letter relating to the change and changes proposed to the current ordinance can be found below.