Winter campers on the Homer Spit get the boot

Rv's and campers in the Seafarer's Memorial parking lot. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KBBI)
Rv’s and campers in the Seafarer’s Memorial parking lot. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KBBI)

The City of Homer is trying to kick out campers at an unofficial campsite on the Homer Spit. Police are telling people living in a parking lot beside the Seafarer’s Memorial to move to an official campground down the road. One camper is willing to move, but he has one request.

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Ken Boyle is smoking a cigarette and listening to the radio in his tiny camper powered by a borrowed gas generator. The camper sits in the back of his pickup truck. Boyle is camping beside the Seafarer’s Memorial dedicated to people who lost their lives at sea.

He says he’s a retired carpenter and was living in Happy Valley, before he drove the 30 odd miles south to Homer.

“I lived on a boat in the harbor for 12 years so I kind of like it here,” said Boyle.

Boyle bought his camper a year and a half ago and has lived in it ever since.

Last spring and summer he was camping at the city’s seasonal campground beside Pier One Theatre, but he moved after the campground closed for the winter. Now Boyle will have to move again. The city reopened its campground and is ordering all campers in the parking lot to leave.

Homer Police Chief Mark Robl says the memorial parking lot was never intended for long-term camping.

“There is a city ordinance that authorizes some camping in that parking lot when all the other campgrounds are closed,” said Robl.

The city’s normal rules don’t apply to the parking lot because it’s not an official campground. Robl says people were camping there too long.

“We had several people move into that parking lot and they were clearly there for the winter. Some of them towed different campers in [that were] in different states of disrepair. It was getting to be a big mess,” said Robl,” said Robl.

Ken Boyle's truck and camper. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KBBI)
Ken Boyle’s truck and camper. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KBBI)

Police arrested some campers and Chief Robl says a few even put the parking lot down as their home address.

The Homer City Manager reopened the campground near Pier One Theatre earlier this winter so police could clear out the parking lot.

According to city code an official campground can only be used for 14 days before campers have to leave. City officials say it is $8 per day to camp in a tent and $15 to camp an RV, but those prices could change. Robl says the rules and fees will help with an annual problem.

“At the end of the winter we end up having to tow some of these derelicts away and take them to the dump. This past spring that got to be pretty expensive. We had several vehicles and campers out there that we had to deal with. We’re trying to avoid that problem in the future,” said Robl.

Robl says police told parking lot campers they had to move back in December.

Ken Boyle has just one problem with that. He says the public bathrooms at the authorized campground are closed for the winter.

“The police showed up and I told them if they opened up the bathroom over there then I’d light this truck up and go over there.  He said he’d research it and get back to me,” said Boyle.

Boyle says he has bad legs and the bathrooms closest to the campground are too far away.

Robl says the bathrooms Boyle wants opened are closed because they weren’t designed for winter use and it would cost too much to heat them.

Still, Boyle has his mind made up.

“It’s obvious. Open the bathroom and I’ll move,” said Boyle.

Boyle says the Seafarer’s Memorial parking lot is closer to a bathroom.

Robl says police don’t want to arrest anyone slow to change campsites. Instead they’re going to try to nudge campers into moving first. He says police have seen about four people leave the parking lot and there are around ten campers left.