Occupy Madison wrangles with Dane County Parks officials

2013-04-23T13:15:00Z Occupy Madison wrangles with Dane County Parks officialsPAT SCHNEIDER | The Capital Times | pschneider@madison.com madison.com

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.”

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(11) Comments

  1. bigdaddy61
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    bigdaddy61 - April 24, 2013 2:35 pm
    What is actually shamefull is they are permitted to squat in a county park that is supposed to be available for the recreation and enjoyment of everyone. Who would want to camp with their famlies in the same park as these degenerates.
  2. witness2012
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    witness2012 - April 24, 2013 12:44 am
    They don't have cars, Redeaux. How do you expect them to transport their stuff?

    It's kind of a broad brush you're using there to stereotype a very diverse group of people and it shows that you don't actually know any of them.

    The reason they are facing this type of resistance is that they are trying to stay together for mutual protection rather than, individually, each find somewhere to stay- a corner, under a bridge, or whatever refuge they can find, Alone, they are more likely to be attacked or sexually abused.

    As a community, they are visible. But, rather than deal with them head-on, we're going to try to ban them from every legal option and force them into even more insecurity. It's shameful.
  3. witness2012
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    witness2012 - April 24, 2013 12:35 am
    It's Ms. Schneider, not Mr. Schneider.
  4. Redeaux
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    Redeaux - April 23, 2013 11:47 pm
    Well written article I must say. Not slanted in any direction. Nice job Mr Schneider or reporting just the facts without bias. Us commentors' will handle that
  5. Redeaux
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    Redeaux - April 23, 2013 11:09 pm
    No, they rely on other people to clean up their messes, move them from site to site, etc. I have to say my hat goes off to the people that help them do these things, but I also have to say that the reason most of these people are in the situation they are in is because they want little or no responsibility. Hell, why not? As long as you have other people moving you, fighting your legal battles, making excuses for you - why should you be accountable for yourselves. Right now, as we speak, they are asking someone to come move their stuff from Portage Rd to Lake Farm. And the first excuse you will here them say is, "well, if they hadnt moved our stuff in the first place, we wouldnt be asking"... Nevermind the fact that they were warned to move their stuff or have it moved.
    These are real "occupiers". They are hding behind the name of Occupy. You want to see the closest thing to Occupy, go on Occupy Milwaukee's website.
  6. River
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    River - April 23, 2013 10:13 pm
    So they can't camp on public or private land now? Can't have it both ways...
  7. witness2012
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    witness2012 - April 23, 2013 5:57 pm
    NW, they are paying the fees to camp in the park, the same as everyone else who is camping there.
  8. Lynne4300
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    Lynne4300 - April 23, 2013 5:38 pm
    Have the Occupiers taken care of the parks? Do they pull weeds, pick up liter, and keep the ground clean?

    Maybe the county could hire them temporarily and teach them the skills to work for the county in the parks department?
  9. normwegian
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    normwegian - April 23, 2013 4:46 pm
    Opps, meant to say Dane County Parks were not created for squatters.
  10. normwegian
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    normwegian - April 23, 2013 3:14 pm
    Looters and takers, that's all they are. They need to get a life and a job. Dane County are not for squatters.
  11. witness2012
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    witness2012 - April 23, 2013 2:40 pm
    County officials should be ashamed of how they are treating this group of citizens. And, they are citizens.

    Imposing arbitrary rules on them that don't apply to other campers, making them feel as if they will be evicted, and not communicating clearly with them or their representatives is just plain wrong as well as being vindictive and mean-spirited.

    We have the right to expect better from Dane County..
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