Castle Rock to restrict camping near waterways

Advocates concerned it will disproportionately target the homeless
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Posted at 8:05 AM, Jul 10, 2023

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Plum Creek is one of Castle Rock's major water supply sources and town leaders say they need to protect it.

"It's a small creek so small amounts of contamination can cause issues," Mark Marlowe, Director of Castle Rock Water, said.

The town said those issues have been growing along with an influx of unauthorized camping and a large accumulation of trash that can eventually get washed into the creek. The Town of Castle Rock said they've spent more than $23,000 since last July on cleaning up the creek. The costs continue once the water gets to the treatment plant.

"You can have human waste as a part of that, drug paraphernalia and other things, we don't want that in our water supply," Marlowe said. "Obviously, we treat all the water that we use for drinking, but believe it or not, the more contamination of the water, the more the cost to treat that particular water supply."

Safety of those camping is another concern. Camps have been found inside of large storm drains and other storm water infrastructure.

"That is not a good place to be when we get a large storm that comes in and drops two or three inches of rain in an hour. Those things can fill up and people can be killed or drowned," Marlowe said.

Castle Rock to restrict camping near waterways

Camping restrictions recently passed unanimously by Castle Rock Town Council. The new ordinance does not permit camping or waste material within 100 feet of water.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless released the following statement to Denver7, acknowledging the town's concerns but encourages them to offer more support for those experiencing homelessness:

"While Colorado Coalition for the Homeless understands the concern for the safety of people spending time in flood-prone areas and the health of water sources, we are disappointed in the effort to criminalize basic acts of survival by people experiencing homelessness. This ordinance will undoubtedly disproportionately impact people experiencing homelessness and in fact appears to be tailored to do just that. It is essential to address the root cause of homelessness and provide support rather than simply punishing and pushing away unhoused neighbors who are already vulnerable through ordinances like 2023-013. We urge the Town Council of Castle Rock to invest in housing, shelter, and additional case management and outreach workers to connect people experiencing homelessness with meaningful resources that can actually resolve their situation of homelessness."

Denver7 reached out to one of the few Castle Rock based non-profits that works to offer support to those experiencing homelessness. The Help and Hope Center serves people in need in Douglas and Elbert County.

"We are already, this year, 18% above last year in the first five months. Overall, a lot more people are struggling," Dan Marlow, Executive Director of the Help and Hope Center, said.

Marlow said it's too early to tell if the camping restrictions will bring even more people in need to the Center, but he said advocates will be there and ready to help.

"We give them food. Sometimes we provide sleeping bags or tents or that kind of thing, especially during the cold weather. Douglas County doesn't have a shelter of any kind. So during the cold months, we can often also provide a hotel room," Marlow said.

The Castle Rock camping restrictions will go into effect on July 20. Those in violation of the new rules will have 12 hours to vacate and remove all of their items. If they are then found in violation, town code explains the penalty can be a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.

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