Coordinated greenway sweep clears tons of waste

CENTRAL POINT, Ore.–┬áNearly 25 acres of the Bear Creek Greenway is undergoing one of the largest sweeps in years. After nearly a decade of embedded transient camps, the site between Medford and Central Point is finally being cleared out.

On Thursday, hand crews and bulldozers from the county traversed the area just south of Costco picking up all of the debris and garbage that’s been piling up.

But the work happening in this area isn’t easily accessible. Most of these camps have been buried deep in the undergrowth for years.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s says a coordinated effort between county and city law enforcement cleared out all of the camps recently. But hazards of all kinds still remain as crews go in to clean up the waste.

“Occasionally we come across booby trap sort of situations where people are trying to protect their camps but it’s a hazard to us when we’re trying to go in to clean them out,” said Deputy Noah Strohmeyer, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. “Syringes, needles that sort of thing is a real problem.”

Strohmeyer says along with those concerns there are also others. Several propane tanks were cleared so dozers don’t hit them and human waste and excrement could be found strewn all over the greenway.

The whole process isn’t cheap. Jackson County Parks estimates just the cost to rent equipment and remove the debris is nearly $5,000. That’s not including labor.

“These are funds that could be used towards enhancements on the greenway. We could be doing lighting. We could be doing benches,” said Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks program manager. We could be doing other much more user-friendly things with these funds that would benefit the taxpayers rather than cleaning up somebody’s garbage.”

Lambert says it’s frustrating at times to have to keep coming out to do these cleanups but he also empathizes with those who have been placed in these situations. Over the next two days, it’s estimated over 250 cubic yards of debris will be removed.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says thanks to this coordinated effort, something finally is being done.

“People cycling through Living for a few weeks, a few days, whatever it is,” said Strohmeyer. “Some living for years. So it just starts to accumulate.”

Law enforcement says there’s still no one solution to stop the flow of trash or those who shelter in the greenway. But the hope is they can make incremental changes and help those who need it most.

“There’s some trial and error involved but that’s the part we have to focus on a lot more as well,” said Strohmeyer. “It’s great to clean up garbage but cleaning up garbage doesn’t solve the problem. There’s a much greater issue – bigger problems that need to be addressed.”

While this clean up cleared out tons of debris, it will also allow access for crews to do more clearing of these fuels to reduce fire hazards.

Crews will be out on the greenway again on Friday continuing to finish up and clear the remainder of this garbage.

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