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City crews address campsites, debris on many popular bike routes

Posted by on November 10th, 2020 at 1:25 pm

I-205 path near Burnside on September 22nd, 2020.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve discussed the issue of Portlanders living outside along popular bike paths many times over the years. But for some reason I’ve yet to share anything about the city’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (HUCIRP). This is the City of Portland program that’s, “responsible for coordinating cleanup/abatement of unsanctioned campsites on City and ODOT owned properties/rights-of-way.”

Earlier today I came across a tweet that highlights current sites HUCIRP crews are scheduled to address. As I looked through the locations I was surprised at how many were on major bike routes and paths.

The 80 or so sites on the current list include many locations you might have ridden by. They include:

(Source: City of Portland)

  • Columbia Slough Bridge and N Vancouver
  • N Schmeer Denver To I-5
  • Denver and Schmeer hillside
  • I-5 SB and Rosa Parks
  • I-5 NB and Rosa Parks
  • Peninsula Crossing Trail and N Lombard
  • Columbia Slough Trail at NE 138th
  • I-205 MUP [mulit-use path] Burnside to Glisan
  • I-205 MUP Gateway Green
  • NE Wheeler and Multnomah
  • NE 33rd Marine Dr to Elrod
  • Hawthorne Bridge Head
  • Foster Floodplain
  • Oaks Bottom Hillside
  • Springwater Corridor Trail 92nd to Foster
  • Laurelhurst Park
  • I-205 MUP Market to Stark
  • I-205 MUP Powell to Division
  • I-205 MUP Harold to Holgate

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Several of these locations are particularly notable to bicycle riders.

At Gateway Green, a major new addition to the bike park is scheduled to open sometime this month. Back in 2016 we shared how people lived on the parcel Gateway Green parcel before it was redeveloped into a park.

Earlier this year people used neighborhood associations as a conduit to voice concerns about campers living on the Peninsula Crossing Trail near Lombard.

I’ve heard from several readers about dozens of RVs and other vehicles housing people along NE 33rd en route to Marine Drive.

And of course we’ve covered conditions on the I-205 several times in the past.

This is such a difficult issue. Paths and bike routes are appealing to those of us who ride bikes for the same reasons as those of us who live outside: they are usually flat, relatively quiet, far from prying eyes, and in more wide-open areas. But as Commissioner-elect Mingus Mapps shared with me this week, “Camping on the bike trail is not good for anybody,” because it can lead to dangerous interactions, makes some bicycle riders afraid, and it means some Portlanders are living outside without access to the comforts and conveniences many of us take for granted.

For more on how the City of Portland manages camps, check out the HUCIRP website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Jon
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Jon

Great to see some work being done. Thanks for this article. I’ll look forward to seeing the results!

Steve Hash
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Steve Hash

***Comment deleted. Steve, please try to make your point without being insensitive to other people. Thanks – Jonathan***

igor
Guest
igor

I’m happy to hear about the cleanup. I’m surprised that the I-205 MUP from Market to Division isn’t included. That stretch has the underpass and green on the north side of Division, both of which have been problematic.

matthewmcvickar
Member

***Comment deleted by request of author.***

JR
Guest
JR

My understanding of the “clean-ups” (as opposed to “removals”) is that they only address trash and biohazards at the time they get to the camps. While the clean-ups make things a little more tolerable, the results are very short-lived. I don’t see any change happening until the city opens enough shelters that everyone on the street can be placed in a shelter.

The city of Gresham (from my personal knowledge) and perhaps other jurisdictions outside of Portland don’t tolerate homelessness in public spaces and can enforce the city rules because they provide everyone out on the street a spot in an shelter. As you can imagine, some folks on the street don’t want to live in a shelter. So, they seem to move into Portland jurisdiction where there’s not enough shelters and therefore no requirement to leave.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I rode over the 205 bridge yesterday, the tunnel north of killingsworth under the train bridge is worse than I have ever seen it. The path is narrowed to under 2 feet in places by piles of garbage including bike parts. Some people milling around, I was somewhat worried that I was going to be mugged. There is not a particularly great or safe way to go around this important connection, but I went a different less safe from cars way on the way back. Camping adjacent to the path is not great, piling stuff up on the path preventing people from riding on it has to stop now.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

Can we build more public/subsidized housing already? How is it morally acceptable to have so many people unhoused?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I think the plan is to open many more sanctioned, organized, supervised camps like the C3PO camps in the CEID, where campers can live in safety with basic services, initially in tents but later in tiny houses. I don’t understand why it is taking so long. Hasn’t it been apparent since spring what the pandemic / depression was going to mean?

I’ve heard that some businesses downtown are so desperate to get the tent cities off sidewalks that they are offering up vacant lots, empty parking garages, even unused buildings for temporary shelters. Downtown is hanging on by a thread.

For winter shelters, there is the 1 million sq ft at the Convention Center and the 700,000 sq ft at the EXPO center, vacant, publicly owned, and not being used. The coronavirus shelters in the former were even shut down over the summer.

My recollection is that the city and country spend around $100 million per year on homeless services. For that sum, doesn’t it seem like we should be able to at least provide safe camps?

It feels to me like ordinary people are being set at each other – campers vs cyclists vs neighborhoods vs businesses – because our government can’t do its job.

My hope is that city council will step it up in this time of crisis. I appreciated the detailed interview with Commr-Elect Mapps, and hopefully the other commissioners and commissioners-elect will spend some quality Zoom time with BP too.

Betsy Reese
Guest
Betsy Reese

I rode the 205 path between the Springwater and Gateway last week and found it much improved. I crossed paths with some Parks workers cleaning up landscaping, and a Central City Concern vehicle with multiple workers picking up trash, and likely providing other services. The scores of campsites that I passed were pulled back out of the way and the path was passable.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Tweet link goes to an old BP article.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Solutions to the housing dilemma need to be multi tiered: 1) Sanctioned camping with supervised drug use and access to hygiene services and social workers. 2) Transitional housing with full rap around services for rehabilitation. 3) Government subsidized housing for clean and sober — people are actively working and moving forward. 4) Affordable housing for fully independent and recovered folk.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Having not yet read the 34 messages already posted, I would just like to observe how refreshing it is to hear Mingus Mapps say, unequivocally, “Camping on trails is bad,” instead of the lectures we got from Chloe every time the issue came up.

So happy the voters voted Mingus in and Chloe out.

Tony Rebensdorf
Guest
Tony Rebensdorf

I’m a former Portlander who lives in Vancouver Wa. now. Lately I am appalled at site of garbage-strewn campsites when I come into Portland. It no longer feels like the safe, livable city I spent most of my life in. I never thought I would feel afraid to ride my bike in Portland. This has everything to do with the city itself systematically sticking its head in the sand. Houseless people deserve healthy living conditions. Step up, Portland.

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

I’m very glad to see this happening. While we definitely need to address our unhoused community in a compassionate way it’s unacceptable to lose regional bike infrastructure to unregulated camps.
I ride the 205 path from the Columbia to the springwater regularly and it’s gotten really awful in recent months.
I suggest fencing off two lanes on Powell bvld to create secure camps for the unhoused.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

keep sending locations in to the city’s reporting website!

Matthew in PDX
Guest
Matthew in PDX

I am glad that the city is doing something to address these issues. I have been avoiding the Peninsula Crossing Trail and the I-205 MUP for quite a while because of the encampments. Effectively addressing homelessness is not going to be quick, easy or cheap. It will involve the provision of a lot more public/social housing, a lot more social services and an acknowledgement that housing has to come before treatment for chemical dependency.

Some cities have successfully addressed the social problems that cause/exacerbate homelessness, but again it was not cheap, easy or quick. Cities that are willing to partner with not-for-profits and faith based outreach have been successful, but so have cities that didn’t.

I want everyone to have a warm, dry, safe place to lay their head at night. The lack of a social safety net in the USA is one of the principal causes of homelessness, and crying about people being “welfare …” is not helpful.