Was I happy at the sweep? Yes, I admit I was. I wanted the miscreants out of the wetlands. It would take half a decade to heal, but it would. I knew that from my years of work as a member and coordinator of a coastal watershed council and my decade-long tenure as a caretaker of the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I helped restores acres and acres of wrecked land to fuller ecology.
I made my way down the hill and to the shoulder. Someone had spray painted many of the blocks with words of protest. The words were:
The blocks kill
Stop the sweeps
Fuck the government
Fuck the city
Fuck ur $
Fuck ur laws
People lived here
My initial reaction to the writer was: fuck you! With the effort and cost expended writing these words, you might have done something far more helpful to better your plight or the wetlands you are murdering with your habitation.
I also laughed at the mention of NIMBY. These people bitching about NIMBY were destroying the homes, front yards and back yards of hundreds of species of flora and fauna with their malicious residency. Go ahead and ruin the concrete under an off ramp of a freeway but don’t ruin an ecosystem and wipe out habitat for a rare species.
We don’t allow the willful destruction of a rare species of flora or fauna in the construction of dams and resorts or because of logging and mining operations. Why allow it here?
I rarely get angry in my interactions with the homeless, but this was one of them.
And then I began investigating the encampment and I got even more angry.
I crossed the road and walked between two of the blocks. I stood on the shoulder and looked down the embankment to the encampment.
It had not been swept. The wetlands had not been cleaned up. There were more discarded appliances and several shelving units.
The city had performed cosmetic surgery. What was needed was a full-blown operation to save a wetlands from critical condition.
I walked roughly 300 yards down the shoulder, paralleling the hellhole. Up close, the devastation was much worse than I had imagined; massive erosion, mounds of garbage, stripped trees, dozens of propane tanks, dozens of shopping carts. There were also considerably more tent/tarp domiciles than I previously thought. I stopped counting at 15.
At first, I heard only white noise of distant traffic. Then I started hearing voices, and staccato bursts of loud and strange, unintelligible words. They sounded almost prehistoric in nature, or what I thought prehistoric language might have sounded.
These voices were eclipsed by the sound of crackling fire. I saw it burning somewhere in the hellhole. I saw an outline of a person feeding the fire wood. Then came unmistakable sound of someone hacking branches with a hatchet.
It was all incredibly discombobulating, this hearing in real time the further destruction of a wetlands. I almost cried out, but refrained because I didn’t know what to say that didn’t involve profanity, and that wasn’t going to help the cause. The cursing on the blocks already proved that.
What would? Maybe some new message spray painted on the blocks? Such as: Hey Miscreants, Get the Hell Out of Our Home! Yours truly, Mr. Beaver, Ms. Salamander and the Willow Sisters.