City Manager closes Homer park to summer camping following uptick in crime
Karen Hornaday Park will be closed to camping this summer following an uptick in crime in the Homer park, the city announced earlier this month.
City Manager Rob Dumouchel said the city has had a number of challenges managing the campground, including difficulty finding staff to keep it up and running. He also said they’ve had what he called a “significant increase” in inappropriate uses of the park from campers.
“In a regular year, we might have four or five police calls that bring people out to Hornaday Park," Dumouchel said. "And in 2020, we had 60. Then in years following, it's decreased, but it's still quite elevated. We're seeing 15 to 25 calls for the police to come out there.”
Since 2020, about 100 calls for service have been recorded by the Homer Police Department at the park, according to a city report.
Activity at Hornaday Campground spiked in 2020 when it was designated as a free camping spot for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the report says. Dumouchel discontinued the program in 2021, and the calls for service decreased, but remained very elevated compared to the low number of complaints in the years before the free-camping program.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said the department has spent a lot of resources and time trying to quell the illicit behavior, including people staying past the maximum stay time and stealing others’ property.
"We've arrested folks up there with warrants. We've had disorderly conduct situations. We've had quite a bit of open drug use," Robl said. "We've run into lots of problems up there, lots of disturbance calls that we've had to respond to, altercations in progress, fights — just a little bit of everything. And it's been steadily getting worse over the last three years.”
Dumouchel said he hopes this year’s closure will disrupt the activity and provide time to reevaluate what the community wants the park to look like in the future. Robl said it could take longer than one season, though.
“I think it might be in the best interest of the city to close it for at least a couple of years to help break the cycle of behavior that we've seen up there. I'm not sure if one year will do it,” he said.
Dumouchel said the city plans to update the park’s master plan later this year.