The city of Phoenix wants to make sure its park users know the rules, whether in a city park or mountain preserve—and that those who violate the rules may be blocked from coming back to these public spaces.
The Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of creating a Code of Conduct Policy to govern city parks and facilities. The policy will address behaviors that violate park rules, and city and state regulations. The purpose is to ensure visitors have a safe, clean and enjoyable experience.
According to the draft, “While the parks are open to all, no one has the right to interfere with another person’s use of city parks or facilities.”
The Parks and Recreation Board discussed the creation of a code of conduct policy, and what it should entail, at its Jan. 24 meeting. The draft was developed using feedback provided by community members during four public meetings held in January. The draft report was then presented to the City Council Parks, Arts, Libraries and Education Subcommittee at its Feb. 27 meeting.
The Code of Conduct isn’t so much reinventing the wheel, as taking current park rules, city ordinances, and misdemeanor criminal offenses that tend to occur in park spaces, and putting them under one umbrella. The code addresses several non-permitted uses and behaviors in both city parks and mountain preserves.
Among the new additions to the city park rules are no bathing, sleeping, storing personal belongings or doing laundry in restrooms or park facilities. Also new is a time limitation on the use of a park ramada to four hours or less per day, for two consecutive days. Most ramadas are first-come, first served, but there have been problems with homeless and other people loitering there all day, often sleeping on the benches, effectively monopolizing the ramada.
An addition to the listed mountain preserve regulations came from an ordinance passed by the City Council in 2017 that addresses endangering dogs on trails in adverse weather conditions, such as temperatures over 100 degrees. Violators will face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, a fine and possible jail time.
Keeping up with today’s technology and trends, the Code of Conduct for mountain preserves also includes a ban on riding electric bicycles or other types of motorized vehicles on trails, prohibits operating a metal detector and removing found items, and forbids placing of geocaches in a location within a park or preserve without first being reviewed and approved by park management.
Other prohibited behaviors and actions are somewhat self-explanatory and also deal with illegal behaviors, such as drug use or possession, abusing or vandalizing park property, and aggressive intimidation or harassment of patrons or city staff.
One “code” that is drawing mixed response targets mobile vendors, such as the people who sell popsicles, mango on a stick, or corn on a stick, without a proper business license. Some say leave them be, they are providing a service. Others say their carts can block sidewalks, their customers often leave their trash all over the park, and there’s know way to know if the food is properly prepared and stored to prevent food-borne illnesses.
Those who violate the Code of Conduct will face some consequences. Any criminal offenses will continue to be dealt with by the Phoenix Police Department. They, and anyone who violates any part of the Code of Conduct, are subject to being trespassed—in other words, banned—for periods ranging from one day to one year, and applicable to the location where the violation took place, or extending to all Phoenix parks and facilities.
The first offense most likely will result in just a verbal warning with some educational material provided about the Code of Conduct. However, any harassment of patrons or staff (physical, sexual or verbal), and any violation of criminal law or state statute, will result in immediate trespass for 60 days or greater from all parks and facilities.
Eight additional community meetings were held last month, and public input also has been received via e-mail to the Parks Department office. Department officials hope to have a final version of the Code of Conduct before the Parks and Recreation Board by no later than the end of May. Community members are encouraged to review the draft Code of Conduct Policy online here. Feedback can also be provided to the Parks and Recreation Department by phone at 602-262-6862 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the summer the Parks Department will roll out an educational campaign with press releases, fliers, and updates on the website to let people know about the new code. Those parks and preserves that have a high rate of incidents right now will eventually have new, permanent signage put in place, paid from the Parks Preserve Initiative fund. While the signs can’t list all the prohibited behaviors, they will hit the high points, and direct visitors to a website or other location to view the complete Code of Conduct.