The City of Corvallis has placed amenities such as portable toilets, a hand washing station and a dumpster in Pioneer Park to encourage good hygiene practices and a clean camp environment for the local houseless community.
These resources are located in the south edge of the parking lot of the park. The amenities provided are also within walking distance of additional services like showers and a warming tent at the hygiene center located at the Corvallis Men’s Shelter. This service is expected to continue until March 31, in lieu of spring and summer park activities returning beginning in April.
Campers that are currently receiving the park's services are assigned to a designated parking space in order to allow for adequate physical distancing measures. These clearly marked spaces along within “no parking” zones ensure the safety of the environment and the campers.
"The applicants were also subject to a limited background check to ensure that campers within the park do not have extensive criminal history and have the ability to 'self-manage' while living in the park, which includes keeping a clean area, following typical park rules and following COVID-19 protocol," said Corvallis Parks and Recreation Director, Meredith Petit. "This encourages campers to be good neighbors and provides peace of mind for other park visitors."
Unauthorized campers were able to be relocated out of the most precarious locations near Marys River which is subject to flooding. Petit said this helps to reduce the danger for campers, their vehicles and the environment, with how trash and debris could enter the waterways. They know exactly who is camping in the park and have their contact information should the City need to evacuate campers in case of an emergency.
"The City is always one of the largest providers of services for the houseless community and has significantly increased that financial commitment this year in response to the pandemic," said Community Development Director, Paul Bilotta.
The City's planned social services spending for this year includes the Levy supported social service, Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity funding and funding for the Unity Shelter.
In addition to Pioneer Park, the park property at the BMX track is available for the purposes of a managed tent camping location. This is adjacent to the Men's Shelter in south Corvallis which is managed by them and has similar amenities.
The City is also currently not enforcing illegal tent camping in park areas as long as tents are kept away from waterways and at least fifty feet away from children's play areas and other park features.
"We will, of course, continue to support a wide variety of affordable housing and social service programs like we do every year," Bilotta said.