Opinion: City should aggressively remove bed campsites
An open letter to Mayor Steve Martin and Paso Robles City Council
-It was heartening to hear the report from the Paso Robles City Fire and Police Chief on efforts to prevent a major fire in the Salinas Riverbed that would threaten homes, businesses and lives.
The riverbed has been declared a high fire risk area and notices have been posted requiring all people to leave the bed and all personal belongings to be removed from the riverbed by May 25, 2021. Interestingly, however, the Chief admitted that the rate and number of fires in the riverbed have not decreased, no one has left the riverbed, and no personal property has gone. been removed from the riverbed since the original 50,000 pounds of waste was dumped earlier this year.
It was also heartening to hear Mayor Pro-Tem John Hamon express his concern, suggesting that the city should adopt a zero tolerance policy towards riverbed camping.
As with many public policy discussions, it is important to take note of what has not been discussed.
Alarmingly, absent from the chef’s remarks, there was the actual tent removal. It appears that contrary to the posted notices, the City does not intend to remove the tents or tent-shaped shelters built by illegal campers. This omission confirms the veracity of the conversation I had with a young camper on Saturday May 29th. This young camper, who clearly had early-onset drug addiction disease, told me that the community action team told her not to worry. Apparently, they told him, “We will not remove the tents, only the garbage. “
And yet, there is a simple and well-established legal procedure for dealing with the personal effects of people in illegal possession of real estate: 72 hours notice, followed by storage of all personal effects for 90 days. The notice published by the city is legal and states that “persons wishing to recover their personal property can contact Evidence Tech Alissa Reina at 900 Park Street (805) 227-7519 for a period of 90 days following May 28, 2021.”
We should never have allowed intruders to inhabit public property in the first place. It is beyond my ability to understand why, if the goal is to protect the city from fires, we are not quickly and aggressively removing entire campsites, including makeshift tents and shelters. The benefit of action far outweighs the cost of continued inaction.
We are the stewards of this environmentally sensitive habitat. We must protect the river bed. It makes no sense that a small number of people can requisition part of the public domain and an incredible natural resource while threatening the safety of our community. Hurry up. Like any other land battle, it may need to be restored and protected one section at a time from south to north, systematically fenced in and patrolled by law enforcement and / or volunteers.
For anyone like me who feels compassion for those with addiction and mental illness, remember that recovery never happens in the riverbed.
Commander, US Navy Ret.
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