Chain gang, police remove trash from illegal campsites in Port Angeles
Brian Smith/Port Angeles Police Department
Clallam County corrections officer Nate Clark leads jail inmates in a cleanup of illegal campsites on Front Street at Estuary Park on Aug. 21.
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Police Department Downtown Resource Officer Dallas Maynard identified 10 illegal campsites along Front Street, the Waterfront Trail, under City Pier and around Estuary Park.
Maynard accompanied Clallam County Corrections Officers Nate Clark, Luke Brown, Ray Cooper and two jail inmate work crews, known as the Chain Gang, for the daylong cleanup Aug. 21.
No citations were issued.
“All of the campsites were very recently occupied,” Deputy Police Chief Brian Smith said.
The county-supervised work crews removed bedding, clothing, trash and shopping carts belonging to downtown businesses.
The shopping carts were returned.
Most people camping illegally over the summer are doing so by choice, Smith said.
He cited a “vast social safety net” available in Port Angeles, including the Serenity House of Clallam County, Salvation Army, soup kitchens and shelters.
“These people are choosing an outdoor lifestyle,” Smith said.
'Give each other space'
Serenity House of Clallam County Executive Director Kathy Wahto said some people living in crowded households camp in the summer to “give each other space.”
“It's like giving yourself a vacation, but you don't have any money to go anywhere,” she said.
Serenity House, which was not involved in the campsite cleanup, leads the local Point in Time Count homeless census every winter.
Data from the nationwide count are used to help local agencies draw in state and federal funds for programs aimed at reducing homelessness.
Volunteers counted 38 people who were living on the streets in January's census, down from 200 in 2006 and 79 last year.
“Right now, we do have empty beds in shelter facilities,” Wahto said.
“We are not seeing any unusual pattern in people seeking services.”
Wahto cautioned that she had no way of knowing the circumstances of the people living in the campsites.
Police had warned those who were suspected to be camping illegally about an impending cleanup, Smith said.
He said illegal campsites, which are less of a problem in the winter, have a “significant impact” on the environment and quality of life.
“It doesn't take much to trash something, especially if you're putting garbage in the ground and leaving human waste and then you're moving on,” Smith said.
Those who camp illegally on public property are committing a crime and can be cited and held responsible for some of the cleanup costs.
“We have written citations in the past,” Smith said.
Maynard has identified other illegal campsites that will be removed in the coming weeks.
Clallam County chain gangs have helped the city remove illegal campsites three times within the past year.
Much of the chain gang work occurs along county and U.S. Forest Service roads and trails.
“We greatly appreciated the assistance from the chain gang,” Smith said.
“They're fantastic guys to work with.”
Anyone who finds an illegal campsite in the city is asked to phone the Police Department at 360-452-4545.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 29. 2013 6:20PM