Saving spots at Maple Leaf Parade may be coming to an end

Oktoberfest 2012 is in the books, but plans for next year are already in the works.

The city met with the Oktoberfest board this week to start coming up with ways to improve the event.

A large part of the discussion centered around the Maple Leaf Parade and the practice of camping out early to stake out spots.

It’s actually illegal to camp out on public property before midnight the night of the parade.

The city hasn’t been enforcing it, which is why people stake out their spot as early as the Wednesday before the parade.

But those days could be over. The city said it’s coming up with a new plan to make sure people stay off the route until the night before the parade.

The goal is to keep people safe, and make sure everyone has a chance to join in the festivities.


La Crosse resident Sherry Burch said even though she loves the parade, she hasn’t gone for a couple of years now.

“It’s just too hard to find a spot. It’s jam packed. If you have little kids, where are they going to sit?” said Burch.

It’s a problem she credits in large part to the parade goers who camp out days ahead of time to save their spot.

“It’s frustrating because those of us who can’t sit out there for a week long to reserve a spot aren’t going to have a spot,” said Burch.

It’s a practice the city said needs to stop for the public’s safety.

“There’s a lot of traffic and opportunity for accidents to occur and that’s really what we’re concerned about. People are out there and whether they believe it or not they are at risk,” said the director of public works, Dale Hexom. “When people first start setting things up, that’s when police officers along with my public works staff need to start making routine, regular, frequent sweeps.”

But upping enforcement isn’t the only idea the city is talking about.

“Why don’t we lay out a grid of the public right of way, the public property and issue permits to people. If you want to occupy this 10 by 10 area it will cost you a $100,” said Hexom.

It’s an idea Burch can get on board with.

“I would go and buy myself a spot if they had it marked out where you could go and buy a block. Yeah, I would go and buy one,” said Burch.

But no matter how it’s approached, the city said the key to keeping people safe and off public land all depends on enforcement.

“It’s a continuous, rigorous enforcement of the policy,” said Hexom.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the possible changes.

People spoke out on the WKBT News 8000 Facebook page and said camping out early is a fun tradition that doesn’t cause any problems. Others said you should be able to get the best spots if you’re willing to get there early.

The city will meet with the Oktoberfest board again next month.

At that point,  they’ll discuss just how much it would cost to increase enforcement.