PROVO — The early bird may get the worm, but residents looking to save a seat days prior to the Grand Parade of America's Freedom Festival could find themselves in violation of a new city ordinance.

The City Council will review an ordinance June 4 that would regulate paradegoers' longtime tradition of camping along the parade route on University Avenue days prior to the Grand Parade on the Fourth of July. Under the contemplated ordinance, residents wouldn't be allowed to save spots along the route until 3 p.m. July 3, the day before the parade.

Three years ago, Provo Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Parker said, the city abandoned efforts to regulate spot savers, as well as their practice of using items as place savers. The only restriction the city had was that no one could camp overnight along Center Street, 100 South and 200 East.

That lenient policy hasn't worked out as the city hoped, Parker said.

"People began reserving space almost a week before the Grand Parade and began camping out along University Avenue up to four days prior to the parade," Parker wrote in a memo to Mayor Lewis Billings dated May 1. "Tarps and blankets were placed on the park strips for many days at a time, killing grass and making it impossible to water or maintain the grass."

Add to that the agitation some campers felt when they'd leave their items on the parade route only to come back later to find their chairs and blankets moved to the side by others. Such situations set off early fireworks.

"These issues created opportunities for conflict along the route, which, at times, required intervention by the Provo city police," Parker wrote on Provo's Web site.

Last year, the Grand Parade of America's Freedom Festival drew an estimated crowd of 25,000. The week before the parade, University Avenue was littered with blankets and air mattresses. Some college students told the Deseret News they camped out for three nights and had to defend their turf on multiple occasions.

According to the proposed ordinance, residents won't be allowed to reserve space along the parade route until 3 p.m. the day before the parade. No one will be allowed to reserve a spot along Center Street, 100 South and 200 East until 5 a.m. on the Fourth of July, the day of the parade. Paradegoers would also be required to watch their gear at all times, lest it be deemed abandoned property and removed by law enforcement officers.

The City Council is expected to consider the ordinance in a public hearing at 7 p.m. June 4 in the council chambers on 351 W. Center. Residents can leave comments to the city about the ordinance on www.provo.org.


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com