The city of Homer told people living in a parking lot on the Spit earlier this year to break camp and move to a site down the road. They said there were too many long-term campers. One of those campers has returned to his routine at the new campground until he can move into his dream home.
Ken Boyle leans down to light the kerosene heater on the floor of his camper.
“It’s supposed to self-light but it never works so. There we go,” said Boyle.
Boyle says, living campground to campground is doable in Homer, especially if you have a bathroom. Boyle lives inside his camper hitched to his pickup parked in the Fishing Hole Campground near Pier One Theatre on the Homer Spit. The retired carpenter shares the space with a friend who is away at work. Back in January police told him to leave the parking lot of a local memorial dedicated to sailors lost at sea.
A line of city code left it open for campers when the official campgrounds closed for the winter. But, last year too many people were using it for too long, so the city kicked them out. The RV’s and campers were unsightly, some were abandoned and, the city says, it was too expensive to clean up after them. So they changed the code, closed the memorial parking lot to camping and reopened the official campground early.
Boyle had no problem leaving as long as he had access to a bathroom. And now, at Pier One, he does.
“Yeah they got a bathroom over here. It was a port-a-potty but now they have a real bathroom going,” said Boyle.
Boyle is a Vietnam Veteran who has lived in Homer for 34 years. He bought his camper almost two years ago and has been living in it ever since. He sits on one of two bench-beds lining opposite sides of the dark camper and presses tobacco into rolling paper as he talks.
“I don’t plan. The people plan it for me. They want me to move every two weeks. So, I guess I’ll move down to the Mariner’s Park and then move back. I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll get to that when I get to that. I’ve got another week to go,” said Boyle.
Changing campgrounds every two weeks is a summer rule meant to preserve the property says Angie Otteson, Park Maintenance Coordinator for the city of Homer. The city code allows people to stay longer if there are enough campsites still open.
“…really helps eliminate some problems with people setting up for long term and staying all summer. It degrades the site for one thing and it’s very easy to accumulate stuff when you sit in one place for any length of time,” said Otteson.
Otteson says during the winter, when the other campgrounds are closed, the Fishing Hole Campground is open for long-term camping. Campers just can’t stay in the same spot for too long.
But, now the summer season is getting underway and summer rules apply. Otteson says they’ve told three campers at Boyle’s campground it’s time to move.
“They’re all very nice guys and it’s really hard when you see people who are a little down on their luck and you really want to help them out.”
Otteson guesses somewhere between six and twelve people usually live in Homer campgrounds year round.
The Homer Police said back in January that they didn’t want to arrest or fine anyone who was slow to move out of the parking lot they cleared. Otteson says they haven’t and almost everyone cooperated. She says only a couple of abandoned campers will be impounded because their owners haven’t reached out to the city.
Boyle says he’s good to go and he’s just taking things a day at a time. He enjoys the solitude that comes with camping.
“That and I want to get on a boat, if I ever get on a boat. I lived on a boat most of my life and it’s different from being on dry land,” said Boyle. “Nobody comes and visits you and it’s just peaceful and quiet.”
Boyle could probably pick up work on a boat, but he says he’d rather buy one.
“I’m actually accustomed to being the captain,” said Boyle.
He and his bunk mate have the perfect boat in mind and they’re saving for it now.