The Destruction of a Wetlands (Part 1)

Regular readers of this blog know I hold no sympathy with those homeless people who destroy the natural areas they inhabit.

I’ve seen this destruction in urban, suburban and rural Oregon. Habitats include riparian areas along creeks and rivers, estuaries, wetlands, forests, coastal dunes, beaches and deserts. I’ve tried in vain to enlist various environmental nonprofit organizations to get off their asses and conduct some outreach to these “campers.” These paid staffers can’t be bothered. I’m always told it’s not their job.

A few clean-up of these pulverized natural areas have occurred in Oregon. I was recently in North Bend and read of a major one on Coos Bay. Major efforts have been conducted along Johnson Creek in Portland, but not nearly enough. I also read of a community effort to clean-up and restore an abandoned encampment in a hiking area along the Sandy River.

So it was much to surprise not too long ago when I took the opportunity to investigate what seemed like from a distance to be a major sweep/clean-up of a homeless encampment that had utterly obliterated a ten-acre wetlands near the Willamette River, a city park, and the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The wetlands is adjacent to the Oaks Amusement Park and home to the rare northern red-logged frog.

I had last seen the encampment while standing on a hill overlooking the carnage: approximately 15 bombed-out RVs, cars and trucks parked single file on a narrow shoulder 50 feet above the encampment. Some of the vehicles were domiciles and still operational. Others had been abandoned. Garbage was strewn and piled along the shoulder. Two refrigerators were also resting there.

Over the last couple of years, I had seen the encampment change and grow, but never ventured in or around it. From my observation post on the hill. I had observed the strange comings of goings of homeless people who resided there. In the fall, with the leaves gone, I could see glimpses of multiple tent/tarp/pallet shanties erected in the wetlands.

As soon as I heard of the sweep, I decided to check it out the aftermath and tour the encampment up close.

It was a sunny morning in February. On my walk to the encampment, I communed with squirrels, birds and stately Douglas firs. I thought about how I wanted a rescue mutt as a sidekick. Dogs can get you into great stories better than human companions.

I reached the hill and looked down to where the vehicles had once been. They were all gone, as was all the garbage and refrigerators. To prevent reoccupation, the city had placed approximately 75 large concrete blocks blocking vehicular access to the shoulder.