Rangers tell homeless to leave Eastbank Esplanade

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Park Rangers are telling the public to expect a resolution "soon" to the growing number of homeless camps along the Springwater Trail near the Eastbank Esplanade.

Joggers, cyclists and other people using the trail complain about tents, trash and other debris piling up near the popular path.

One of the camps is directly under the Ross Island Bridge.

On Sunday, there were about a half-dozen tents immediately adjacent to the paved trail. There was also a heap of trash with food, rags and other garbage piled up.

Rangers have been asking campers to leave and helping them find social services and medical help, according to Mark Ross, spokesman for Portland Parks.

Homeless camps are illegal anywhere in the city, including parks and trails.

The Springwater Trail, winding miles and miles throughout Portland, has a long history of problems with homeless camps and tents.

"As soon as I saw the monster pile of trash, I thought I'm going to take a photograph and ask what's going on," said Judy Crockett.

Crockett interrupted her Sunday stroll after she says she counted 24 homeless tents.

She took dozens of pictures along her four mile walk on the Springwater Trail near the Ross Island Bridge.

"I was conflicted," said Crockett. "We have a big homeless problem in the city. But that doesn't mean you get to camp on the river and throw your trash in it."

Crockett plans to send her pictures to the mayor's office.

Rangers did not release a timeline for dealing with the campers or say when the city will remove the tents and trash.

According to Portland Parks, the campers "did not show a willingness to leave" when approached recently by rangers.

Campers will not be forced to leave by police until rangers try talking to campers and helping them find services first, according to the spokesman for the Parks Bureau, Mark Ross.

One of the campers living under the Ross Island Bridge told KATU he is getting ready to pack up and leave by Sunday night.

"They're kicking us out," said Jimmy, who says he's been homeless for about four years.

Jimmy says he and his wife shuffle from campsite to campsite every month or so after threats of removal.

"I think it looks terrible here. Just terrible," he said, referring to the piles of trash, dirty rags, clothes, food and debris next to his tent.

Jimmy thinks the city should provide more help, but also refuses to go to a shelter where he could be separated from his wife.

In the meantime, he and the other campers are making a big trash heap next to the trail.

It's dirty and smelly, barely a foot or two from bike pedals and joggers, next to the Willamette River's banks, but it's also what the city wants the homeless to do.

When the campers eventually leave the spot under the Ross Island Bridge, they won't take their trash with them.

City staff will remove it for them.

According to Mark Ross, it's more efficient for staff to deal with a large pile of garbage rather than odds and ends scattered throughout a campsite.