February 19, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 8


State Parks suspend rules to allow homeless people to stay on in Sammamish State Park

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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The Washington State Parks Department will allow Tent City 4, a homeless encampment of more than 30 people, to stay on state land until March, when the group has arranged to move to a church in unincorporated King County.

“Given that it’s off-season, and we didn’t have any other people in there, the parks staff decided that it would be appropriate to allow them to stay through the period,” said Virginia Painter, spokesperson for the state parks department.

Tent City 4 residents were planning on moving elsewhere for three nights and then returning to Lake Sammamish Park, which is allowed by state rules. If that happened, the state would have had to clean up the site and then prepare for Tent City 4 to return.

It was easier, Painter said, to just let the camp stay. The parks department suspended its rules that require campers to leave the site after 20 days.

Tent City 4 moved onto state property for the first time in its 10-year history in January after it lost out on another opportunity to stay with a church in Sammamish. Early in January, the encampment was preparing to move from Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church to Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Sammamish when the city council put a 60-day moratorium on tent encampments. (“Into the wild,” RC, Jan. 29.)

Given short notice, organizers scrambled to find a new location and decided to move to the Hans Jensen group campground in Lake Sammamish State Park.

The state said Tent City 4 could stay on the property under the same rules as any other organization. The state allows people to camp on the property for 20 days at a cost of $2 per person per night.

Campers and Tent City supporters lobbied the state parks department and Gov. Jay Inslee to allow the encampment to stay an additional 20 days. On Feb. 6, the state parks department announced that the group could stay.

There are now two homeless encampments on the Eastside. In 2012, a number of Tent City 4 residents left to start a similar group, Camp Unity. Since then, it’s become more difficult for both of them to find space, said Brandy, a Tent City 4 resident who sits on the encampment’s executive committee, which manages the camp and finds new locations.

With the extension at Lake Sammamish State Park, Tent City 4 now has places to stay through the summer. The group will move to Faith United Methodist Church on March 2 and Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue in June.



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