Jeff Humphrey

Illegal Camping Trashing Our Parks

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 at 1:46 p.m.

Underneath the Maple Street Bridge, Code Enforcement crews are collecting trash and litter left behind by illegal camping.

"The demand is certainly increasing city-wide. We do our best to mitigate secondary impacts of homelessness, camping, and specifically, the litter that's left behind," explained Jason Ruffing, City of Spokane Code Enforcement.

So much litter that volunteers routinely have to raft out the larger pieces of junk just to get the debris off the river's shoreline.

"And this location is so hard to get to, we partner with the Spokane Riverkeeper to float a lot of the garbage across to another location that's easier for us to get it again, and transport it for proper disposal," Ruffing said of rafting away the rubbish.

Unfortunately, one quarter of the 2500 complaints crews have responded to, so far this year, involved a city park.

Neighbors report incidents of campers bathing in splash pads and leaving behind foil trays of burnt Fentanyl inside playground equipment.

"Obviously, our partners with the Parks Department are impacted by this issue as well. And they're doing a massive amount cleanup in those locations too. Even the drug paraphernalia related to camping complaints as well," lamented Ruffing.

Code Enforcement crews perform 12 to 18 litter abatements a day, while still trying to respect the camper's personal property.

"Specifically, at occupied sites, we're going to work with them, we're gonna provide them time to pack what they want to keep with them. While also cleaning up the garbage that is at the site as well," Ruffing emphasized.

The Homeless Outreach Team is projected to collect more than 33 tons of trash by the end of December.

And all of it winds up at Spokane's Waste to Energy Plant.

Last year, Code Enforcement's role in this ongoing cleanup program cost city taxpayers $629,000.

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