A sex offender that registered his home address as an Ashland park has prompted city officials to prohibit overnight camping in all city parks.
Ashland City Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to give initial approval to prohibit overnight camping without prior special permission in city parks. The amended ordinances will need final approval to become law.
According to Ashland Police Chief Rob Ratliff, the move was prompted in part by a sex offender who had listed his address on the Kentucky State Police registry as Ashland’s Riverfront Park.
“This is not someone we want staying in our park,” said Ratliff. He declined to name the individual.
A search of the registry Thursday revealed there was no longer anyone registered at that address. There are more than 80 sex offenders registered in Boyd County, including 58 whose addresses are listed in Ashland.
The KSP’s phone systems were experiencing problems on Thursday and a public information officer could not be immediately reached. According to its website, the KSP “do not evaluate or approve particular locations for compliance with sex offender residence restrictions.” It is illegal for registered offenders to live within 1,000 feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned playground or a licensed day care facility.
Ratliff said the man was not the only individual spending the night in city parks. The ban, he said, will protect both the parks and citizens.
“If you allow any camping you open the door to people camping. Under certain circumstances you don’t want that in our parks,” he said.
In recent years, especially during the warm summer months, there have often been transients who have camped along the riverfront.
“It is just a place for them to go, now with it being developed, it’s inviting for them to go down there. They have some resources there. It is just a good spot for them, not necessarily us,” said Ratliff.
City Attorney Richard “Sonny” Martin said officials believed camping was previously banned under the ordinance but the amendments were needed to ”clarify that it is not a permitted use.” He confirmed the request to change the ordinance had come from APD, which had a “reoccurring problem with transients,” including folks with “felony backgrounds.”
Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Sean Murray said he felt the change was in the best interest of citizens and Ashland parks. Groups and individuals, he said, can still apply to the city to hold an overnight event. That request would then need to be approved by commissioners.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org