CHAGRIN FALLS — Camping under the stars within village boundaries is off limits.

Village Council on Monday passed as emergency legislation an ordinance banning overnight camping on village owned property, which becomes law immediately and gives police the authority of enforcement.

The “overnight use of public property” amends an existing law that stated only an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. closing time for Riverside Park but was silent on the use issue and other village property such as the two falls overlook viewing areas.

Also designated under the new rules are Evergreen Hill and Grove Hill cemeteries, Franklin Park, the wastewater treatment plant, Triangle Park, Bell Street Park and all conservation areas including the arboretum on American Street and Whitesburg Nature Preserve.

Signs referencing the ordinance are to be erected at all locations and serve as public notice to all including campers who have repeatedly used Riverside Park, the Triangle or falls overlook this summer.

The exception to the rule is River Run Park which allows two-day camping to accommodate an annual Boy Scout camp out.

Law Director Dale Markowitz explained because use of the parks “is a First Amendment issue,” legislation must be “neutral” and apply to all those capable of meeting the insurance requirement, provide toilet facilities among other conditions including approvals by the village administrator and fire marshal.

“If you see this is overburdening [River Run] Park, you could find another piece of [village] property for camping,” he advised council.

The new park rules for overnight camping did not pass unanimously. Councilman Andrew Rocky, a member of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees, abstained.

He expressed concern the organization would be locked out of providing overnight facilities for Blossom Time carnival workers.

Village owned properties including Founders Field and the wellfields, both off Washington Street, are in Bainbridge and fall outside village zoning.

All had been utilized at one time or another by the Jaycees as a parking area for trailers and campers used by Blossom Time carnival workers.

The Washington Street National Guard Armory, another parking and camping resource during past Blossom Time events, is now closed to the public.

“So now we are handcuffed to River Run Park, [facilities] previously guaranteed to the Jaycees,” Mr. Rocky said.

Mr. Markowitz suggested council “discuss this again in early January” before the annual Jaycee event over Memorial Day weekend.

Council President Erinn Grube agreed. “This [ordinance] meets an immediate need, and we will revisit it this winter before Blossom Time and Art by the Falls.”

For years, council has been asked to approve Blossom Time as a whole while the detailed information and the permissions were hammered out between the Jaycees and village administration, police and fire officials.

Councilwoman Nancy Rogoff said council never did know the details of the permissions granted the Jaycees for Blossom Time before members were asked to vote their approval.

“I never remember hearing council allow overnight permission to the Jaycees either,” she said.

Mr. Rocky suggested the Blossom Time discussion was theoretical given the COVID-19 pandemic and where it stands next spring but acknowledged council needs to start talking now about other upcoming events with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.

“What are we doing about trick or treat? We should be talking about it now,” he said.

Fire Chief Frank Zugan said his department still does not know if their annual clam bake fundraiser will happen and Mayor William Tomko added it is uncertain if the village’s annual all-village yard sale in late September will be a go.

Ms. Rogoff, who serves as council’s representative to the Parks Commission, said that group is starting to hear more requests for use of the parks for various kinds of gatherings.

All with early autumn dates and each organizer has promised compliance with COVID-19 rules.

During last week’s meeting, the parks commissioners were asked to recommend council approve Riverside Park for use by an exercise class for 25 students, an October chamber music concert estimated to draw a crowd of 50, and a library “Story Walk” which is an unmonitored continuing event for young readers and their families.

An October wedding for an as-yet undetermined number of guests has also been requested for the falls overlook area.

Like everything, gatherings of all kinds, will be dictated by state mandate and federal recommendations in effect on the day each is taking place, according to Mr. Markowitz.

“It is far from clear . . . what we do today won’t be [in effect] on the day we do it,” he said.

The good news, according to Mayor Tomko, is “the village is not being asked to enforce anything. That’s the county board of health.”

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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