CORPUS CHRISTI — The controversial Blucher Park ordinance passed a final vote Tuesday setting new ground-rules for the park which critics say target the homeless. However, city officials say the ordinance was always about maintaining the park.
“This is not about criminalizing anyone, and it is not about banning any type of person from a park,” said Paulette Guajardo, City Council Member At-Large.
The ordinance sets new house rules for the park which prohibit lying down, smoking, vaping, eating, and possessing blankets, pillows, mattresses, cardboard, tarps, sleeping bags, bedding, stoves, cooking devices, shopping carts, wagons, within Blucher Park. It also changes the parks closing time from 10:00pm to 8:00pm.
For one homeless woman who spoke during the council meeting, passage of the ordinance didn't just hit close to home, she says it took her home away.
“That park, to me, is like a home, it really is,” said Rosanne Garcia.
Blucher Park is also an internationally known birding sanctuary, and for the birding community, Tuesday's vote was welcome news.
“This is a special park, there's not another one like it anywhere in the area, maybe even South Texas,” said Karen Smith, President of the Audubon Outdoor Club.
The Blucher Family donated the park to the city in 1942 with the understanding the park be a bird sanctuary and be well maintained. The deed says the family can take the park back if those rules aren't followed.
“There is a deed, this was a gift, it is a preserve; we could not rebuild this if we wanted to,” said Guajardo.
According to Garcia, the people who live in the park know the city has to abide by the deed restrictions, but like other opponents of the ordinance, she wanted the council to table the vote to allow for more discussion.
“I understand that they need the rules for the park, but if they had waited a week, a few days, that would have helped,” said Garcia.
Garcia sleeps at Blucher Park because she feels safest there. She says she’s been sexually and physically assaulted at other areas frequented by the city’s homeless, including in front of City Hall. She's not sure where, or if, she'll sleep now.
“I will just be walking, and walking, and walking like I did when I was raped because I couldn't find anywhere safe for me to go,” said Garcia.
One thing everyone, regardless of which side of the argument they were on, agreed about is that they're grateful for the conversation this ordinance sparked, which brought the city's homeless issue to the forefront.
The next step is for signs to be posted around Blucher Park, letting visitors know about the new regulations. They go into effect as soon as the new rules are written into the city code.