You need a scorecard to keep up with the homeless encampment known as Occupy Madison, as you can read here.
The latest is that a group of 20 or so people have been wrangling with Dane County Parks officials as they try to find a legal place to camp since leaving a privately owned site last week.
When parks officials on Friday challenged the legality of their encampment at Lake Farm Park on the south side of Madison, some confused squabbling over campground rules followed.
It seems that county parks staff told Occupy members they could only have one tent or camper per campsite, a rule Occupy folks said they were not familiar with, despite spending much of last summer at the park.
Treatment of the group raised enough eyebrows that four members of the Dane County Board wrote a letter to county Land and Resources Director Kevin Connors and Parks Division Director Darren Marsh saying: “We are concerned about the adversarial relationship that again seems to be developing with Occupy Madison campers at Lake Farm Park …” The letter was signed by Heidi Wegleitner, Leland Pan, Al Matano and Dorothy Krause.
Marsh told me Tuesday that the one-tent-per-site applies to all campers, although it was not on the list of rules posted at the campground.
Those posted rules, Marsh told me, are abbreviated. “Most of the people who use our sites on a regular basis know what the rules and regulations are; they know the standards of the industry,” he said.
Since Occupy got ahold of more tents and now has three tents pitched, one on each of three sites, they seem to be in compliance, Marsh said. Occupy is paying the $17-a-day fee for each site; each of which can have a maximum of six campers on it.
Marsh told me the county’s mission is to provide the best maintained and operated campsites it can for people’s temporary use, and as we talked he mentioned the “recreational” aspect of the campground once or twice.
Still, Occupy folks are certainly not the first to live in the campground temporarily.
“Ever since we’ve had the campground there have been people who use it on a temporary needs basis — homeless or between homes, or whether they’re in town for a job, or medical treatment,” Marsh said.
But large groups who stay the full 14 days allowed on each site rental can be hard on the campground, causing damage to vegetation and compaction of soil by having the ground covered up or weighed down two weeks at a time, he said.
Not to mention the increase in traffic and, say, emergency calls related to a large camping group.
Occupy Madison, which has managed to stay in existence despite many obstacles over the past year, has some pretty lofty goals.
“We’ve worked with the group as best as we possibly could,” Marsh says. “This year moving forward, I hope they will be in compliance and we can provide good service for everyone.”