City says cyclical homeless camps damage protected land

City: Homeless camps damaging protected land

PORTLAND, Ore. -- More than eight months after the city conducted its biggest sweep of homeless campers off of the Springwater Corridor, staff with Portland’s Parks and Recreation Department confirm the years-long process needed to repair damage done to that and other pieces of environmentally protected land has yet to begin.

In fact, it likely won’t begin until after summer of 2017. A price tag for the process has also yet to be determined.

It’s an update that frustrated neighbors of Portland’s Foster Floodplain, who have watched for months as homeless campers put down roots on the property are ordered to move, and later come back.

“If it's going to be a natural area it should be managed as a natural area,” said Michael Cummings. “It should not be managed as a natural area in name only, and you can do whatever you want.”

Cummings said Wednesday, he and his partner file daily reports with the city about campers in the Foster Floodplain area. He said clean-ups happen every few weeks, but campers always come back.

To him, damage to the wildlife refuge is easy to spot.

“You know, there's a little pond and you had ducks back in there. They were probably nesting, and well, now they're gone,” he said.

A KGW crew found one camper on site Wednesday.

Her name was Mary Lou, and she was packing up to leave a campground littered with trash, clothes and a mattress, surrounded by a makeshift four-post bed, which her boyfriend had made from tree branches.

Mary Lou had a name for the cycle of routinely putting down roots on environmentally protected land.

“I call it ‘playing tag with rangers,’” she said.

She added a ranger had visited the camp earlier that week and told people staying there to leave. She said she was given 24 hours’ notice. It’s the eighth time she’s moved in the last month.

Mary Lou said she is aware neighbors are worried campers’ presence is impacting animals and plants there.

“Obviously it does a little bit,” she said. “It makes you crazy to leave a mess like this, but they won't give me enough time to get it cleaned up.”

In his proposed budget, Mayor Ted Wheeler allocated funds for four new, full-time park rangers.

Public hearings are scheduled over the next month.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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