Growing Agitation

In the last several months, I have become more agitated with certain homeless people living in my neighborhood.

To get to the point, they are destroying a city park I love to visit, a unique place where two salmon bearing watercourses converge before the larger one empties into the Willamette River. In the last two decades, agencies and organizations have spent millions of dollars trying to restore these watercourse to fuller ecology and these expenditures have been incredibly successful. Now they are threatened.

My park is a wonderful, subtle, out-of-the-way, quiet natural area where I take respite from urban madness three or four times a week. Or used to.

The destruction began a few months ago as multiple sweeps of other encampments in the neighborhood, dislodged seven or eight RVs and beat-up vehicles and they ended up marooned alongside the park.

Several RVs run loud generators all day. Garbage and accumulations continue to mount. Some of it ends up in the watercourses. One man is operating a bicycle repair shop on the sidewalk. I’ve seen people defecate in the riparian areas. I’ve seen people passed out in the riparian areas.

I’ve previously written for this newsletter about homeless people destroying riparian areas in my neighborhood and the utter indifference of employees of the local watershed council to address the ongoing catastrophe. It’s not our job, our responsibility, they say. I hear that a lot with various agencies connected to this issue. Or I hear nothing at all.

If a watershed is imperiled it is their job. That is obvious.

People live along riparian areas all the time and don’t willfully brutalize them and the flora and fauna that call these habitats home. You can be homeless and live along riparian areas and not have to brutalize them.

I know why this destruction of riparian areas agitates me so much. It is because I spent a good many years on the Oregon Coast doing watershed restoration and saw how it worked to heal abuse perpetrated by farming, logging, road building and shoddy development.

What should I do as a citizen to save this park? Do I put up some signage. Do I start really bitching to the city parks department? Do I talk to the homeless people responsible and ask them to ameliorate their residency?

Yes, I know, if these rigs get swept, they’ll end up somewhere else in the city, but perhaps that relocation won’t end up killing wildlife and wrecking water quality. I consider that a win. I consider for the first time in writing about the homeless, I am angry with the malice shown toward a natural area by clearly struggling people. It is malice. There is no other word for it. If you were indifferent, it wouldn’t end up looking like this place has ended up looking.

I’ve directed almost all my time and energy toward helping Mark and members of the Old Crow Book Club. Maybe I should change course and start focusing on this tiny park and other damaged places of the watershed. I can’t do both.