By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Joe Dancer Park becomes a village

Ten days ago, our reporter counted 29 RVs and trailers parked in Joe Dancer Park, presumably examples of illegal daytime camping on public property. The new McMinnville Community Task Force has recommended closing park gates except when park athletic fields are in use.

Perhaps the city should close the gates to half of Joe Dancer permanently except to allow entrance or egress of sleeping vehicles. It could eliminate citywide street camping and neighborhood disruptions from the unsheltered population.

After all, citizen complaints about neighborhood camping are a constantly squeaking wheel compared to annoyance about trailers in the park. Why not simply establish North Joe Dancer as McMinnville’s new homeless village?

Think of the savings: Elimination of costs for towing and dismantling vehicles that can be reused if abandoned; a single point of contact where social service agencies and private help groups can engage and assist people without homes; law enforcement time redirected to reducing crime and away from the whack-a-mole world of homeless camping enforcement.

People would complain about loss of youth recreational opportunities, but some of those could be moved to school fields for a time while other venues and activities are developed.

I have to admit that these suggestions began as thoughts of satire, but slowly are creeping toward sincerity. If pursued, they no doubt would draw protests about disturbing images of migrant or refugee camps, but are those worldwide realities really more inhumane than moving homeless people from place to place to place and then confiscating their possessions and means of shelter?

McMinnville toyed with the idea a few years ago, then abandoned it amid an outpouring of citizen objections. Next, a call for private parties and businesses to provide homeless camping spaces failed to produce results. The evolving solution has been to turn a blind eye toward takeover of Joe Dancer Park, something now targeted by a citizen effort that, if successful, will return dozens of campsites to streets and neighborhoods throughout town.

A Google Earth view shows availability of more than 25 acres at the north end of Joe Dancer Park, accessible via Marsh Lane and easily separated from the south park. That would lose the soccer fields, but retain baseball, skateboarding, parking and plenty of general park space.

Perhaps it’s not the most elegant solution to homelessness in McMinnville; perhaps the optics of it all would be too distressing for local sensitivities.

The alternatives, however, aren’t working well.

News-Register Publisher Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


Bill B

Jeb, what have you been drinking? And from one of the few voices of reason around here.


Mr. Bladine: as someone who lives in sight of Joe Dancer Park, I suggest maybe you have a building that you could start a “village” in, as well.


Until a permanent location is identified for the homeless to be , they will continue to gravitate towards Dancer or Wortman parks…. they have few other choices. The wack-a-mole approach is costly and serves no one.

Joel R

This is a sincere and non political question that I hope someone can answer: What brought them all here? Our parks and streets were clean and clear of any of this for decades including up through the great economic downturn of 2008. And then almost out of the blue they started pouring in a few years ago during a time when the economy was (and still is) booming and help wanted signs are in every window in town. Something is really weird and confusing about what is behind it all. There have been homeless people in society since the beginning of time. But why on earth did they descend in droves upon little 'ol McMinnville so recently?


Joel, it’s not just McMinnville! Have you crossed the bridge into Salem lately? Bend, Eugene Corvallis they all have homeless issues.

Joel R

That's a good point, Tag. I guess I just figured those places have always had them...but maybe not. Honestly I didn't pay much attention to it when passing through those places.


Why not just build a site with minimal amenities that those in need of a space could park? Violators of any kind should be eighty-sixed and compliant folk left alone. Of course no one wants it in their neighborhood, but I've got news for you - if they aren't already encroaching on your precious domain, then they will be sooner rather than later.


At the corner of Marsh Lane and Riverside Drive is field that is owned Max Water and Light. Currently it’s rented out and farmed. Why isn’t this a on option? In the same vicinity, publicly owned, and doesn’t sacrifice the soccer fields. Encompass Yamhill Valley would be more than willing to make the improvements needed and manage it. Gravel, garbage cans, fencing, and portapottys. Suddenly you have the RVs out of the parks, off the streets, coordinated garbage service, and a location for services to reach out to tenants.


If i read this right these people are using the park during the daytime and leaving in the evening? if that is correct than that seems to me what a park is designed for. I guess i will have to drive by a few times daily in the next week or so and see for myself. But if they are leaving in the evening than that is perfectly fine.


Good thought aim!
That spot is mostly away from residential areas and YCAP is close.

Bill B

@RDs- apparently you don't use the park or you wouldn't be saying that's fine. The idea of another designated location sounds good until you realize current city regulations won't allow enforcement. How about just banning TVs and trailers from the parks and on street parking?

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