Wheat Ridge bans camping in floodplain

City says rule is to increase safety and allow for better enforcement

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/21/21

It is now illegal to camp in a floodplain in Wheat Ridge. The City Council unanimously passed Bill 10-2021 an ordinance amending Chapters 2 and 26 of the Code of Laws during the July 12 session.  …

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Wheat Ridge bans camping in floodplain

City says rule is to increase safety and allow for better enforcement

Posted

It is now illegal to camp in a floodplain in Wheat Ridge.

The City Council unanimously passed Bill 10-2021 an ordinance amending Chapters 2 and 26 of the Code of Laws during the July 12 session. 

The ordinance prohibits tents and makeshift structures in a floodplain within the city limits. It also amends floodplain permitting and variance processes, bringing Wheat Ridge’s floodplain regulations in line with those of the Mile High Flood District.

The ordinance will apply to all floodplain property regardless of ownership — private party, city or state. The intent is to discourage people from sleeping or camping in the floodplain.

In the event of a flood, municipal sirens go off to warn the public, but someone sleeping or camping in the floodplain may not have enough warning to get to safety. 

Most of the city’s main event site, Anderson Park, is in the floodplain. Tents placed there for events like the annual Carnation Festival wouldn’t be impacted because they’re not being used for human habitation.

In a presentation about the change, city staff noted that Section 17-33 of the City Code already states “It shall be unlawful to camp overnight, or to park any vehicle, trailer or camper for overnight camping purposes.” However, that prohibition only applies to city parks. 

Around half of the floodplain in Wheat Ridge is within city-owned park property, while the remainder is not, including several areas that are within the right-of-way for Interstate 70 that are popular and hazardous locations for camping.

The presentation listed several reasons the change to the city’s Code of Laws was needed, with safety being the main concern.

On July 21, 2019, a 38-year-old woman drowned in North Dry Gulch during a high-water event. Her body was found the next morning in an area that had been 10 feet underwater when it flooded.

Other areas of concern raised in the presentation were risks to first responders during swift-water rescues, debris from encampments blocking culverts and causing more danger to the community and byproducts of human habitation (feces, trash) polluting waterways.

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