CORPUS CHRISTI — A new ordinance which essentially makes Blucher Park off-limits to the city's homeless unanimously passed its first test Tuesday.
Most of the public comments, however, were against the ordinance; and several comments had a common there, that homelessness shouldn't be criminalized.
The proposed Blucher Park ordinance came under fire from people who fear the city wants to make being homeless a crime.
“I would ask the council strongly consider not criminalizing homelessness,” said Angela Leach.
Some believe the city can do more to help and are encouraged about the homeless liaison position in next year’s budget.
“There's a lot here in town that do want to help the homeless, but you don't do that by criminalizing the homeless,” said Julie Rodgers.
The ordinance prohibits visitors from smoking or eating in the park, it also bans several items like blankets and pillows. The ordinance calls for the park to close two hours earlier, at 8 p.m. According to CCPD, signs will be posted around the park, letting visitors know about the new regulations.
However, some are concerned what that could mean for other parks.
“It sets a horrible precedent for our public spaces,” said Rodgers. “If you make one park where you can't eat, where you can't bring pillows and blankets in, who's to say you can't do that at Water's Edge Park? Who's to say we can't have a permanent fence up at Artesian Park?”
The Blucher Family donated the land for the park to the city in 1942 with the understanding it would be a bird sanctuary. Today, Blucher Park is internationally known, attracting thousands of birders a year.
“The Texas coast is one of the premier areas in the country for birding and eco-tourism, Corpus Christi is at the center of that, and Blucher is one of the gems in the crowd of Corpus Christi as far as birding is concerned,” said Larry Jordan.
Even though the ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday, it still needs to pass a second reading before it becomes law. That vote should happen within a couple of weeks.