PORT ANGELES — A former homeless encampment that once held eight developed, illegal residential campsites next to Morse Creek off U.S. Highway 101 was cleared Tuesday of tents, makeshift shelters and garbage.
Four people who had repopulated the state-owned site east of Port Angeles after it was emptied of residents Aug. 3 left Tuesday without incident, said state Fish & Wildlife Police Sgt. Kit Rosenberger.
Rosenberger said about a half-dozen Clallam County Chain Gang workers clad in work boots and orange shirts and pants spent most of Tuesday filling at least five, 15- to 20-foot trailers with refuse, their toils monitored by two deputies.
He said when three Fish & Wildlife officers arrived at about 8:30 a.m., a couple was living in one large tent, the doorway of which had held a small painting.
The stench of human waste wafted near the hodgepodge shelter Tuesday.
Rosenberger said the couple, who appeared to be in their 30s, might be charged with littering.
They had left the property Aug. 3 in the first sweep of Fish & Wildlife agents, who unlike Tuesday were accompanied by several deputies.
Rosenberger said a social worker had offered the couple housing options.
An additional two adults living in separate tents on the property Tuesday morning appeared to be in their late 20s or early 30s.
The woman departed with her tent, a few suitcases, some bags of personal belongings and a machete.
“She told me she didn’t have a place to live,” Rosenberger said.
“I told her it was unlawful to set up a residential campsite on the property, and she packed up her belongings and left.”
The single male who set up residence near the parcel’s boundary line told Rosenberger he had been there a night or two.
Since 2002, Fish & Wildlife has owned the property at Morse Creek curve, near a memorial commemorating a motorcycle fatality, as a preserve for urban wildlife.
Before Aug. 3, Fish & Wildlife allowed temporary camping at the site, then permitted day-use only visits.
Rosenberger described the potential return of campers as “the million-dollar question.”
Persistent camping might force the agency to prohibit all public access, at least temporarily, if domiciles are set up a third time, Rosenberger said.
In the meantime, Fish & Wildlife will increase area patrols for the next couple of weeks.
“Closing it is a worst-case scenario,” Rosenberger said, framing the future in question form.
“If we can’t get a handle on people destroying land out there, do we close it to everyone and clean it up and get a handle on the situation?”
Rosenberger said residents have called Fish & Wildlife to let them know about suspicious activity on the parcel in the past month or so, after the encampment’s existence became publicly known.
One area resident reported watching someone carrying bags onto the parcel, Rosenberger said.
“One citizen who lives nearby stopped by and thanked us for our efforts and to complain about drug activity in the area, and was happy to see us working in the area to clean it up,” Rosenberger said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].