Residents are outraged over a new “mobile home park” saying it is destroying the area – the council spent $6,000 on a drastic move to stop it because authorities would not act.
The Phil’s Trailhead system in Bend, Oregon is a popular spot for local residents and cyclists.
There is a camp in the lower parking lot of the trail system, and dozens of trailers have been setting up there recently.
The area is intended to help ease parking congestion when upper parking lots run out of space in the summer.
“I know certain people who have been here since April,” Nicole Moore, a resident, told a local NBC affiliate.
Neighbors say there are now several long-term camps in the parking lot.
“They are closed from December 1st to March 31st,” Moore said.
“As soon as the gates open there are the usual campers. But there are also people who come here and stay for a long time.”
Moore moved to Bend five years ago and lives near the parking lot, but has become increasingly concerned about what she sees as a lack of enforcement by the Forest Service.
“We have these regulations, and the majority of people follow these regulations,” said Kassidy Kern, public forestry officer for Deschutes.
“It’s only maybe 5 percent that we have problems with, and that’s where our law enforcement capabilities come into play.”
According to the Forest Service, camping is permitted in a remote area for up to 16 days.
After that, a camper must move to another remote area at least five road miles away.
Dispersed camping is not permitted near developed recreational areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads such as Phil’s.
The Forest Service says campsites must be 100 feet from any water sources or streams on their property.
“And if they don’t leave, if they don’t plan on leaving, then they get issued a citation for it,” Kern said.
Moore launched a petition called “Close The Fate At Phil’s Trail” earlier this year and has garnered nearly 3,500 signatures.
“Over the last four years, the forest floor has become more and more damaged – lots of traffic, black water deposits, drug dealing. I’ve seen arms exchanges here,” Moore said.
The Highlands at Broken Top is a gated community adjacent to Forest Service Road 4604, where the two main parking areas for the trail are located.
Boulders were placed along the access road to discourage people from camping on the homeowners’ property.
A neighbor told the outlet he spent $5,700 installing a boulder.
“We had a few people camping right along the road and then someone else went a little further,” Kern said.
“So the placement of these boulders was actually to keep people off that road.”
The Forest Service said there is no managed campground in the county, making it difficult to sweep the lower parking lot.
“We recognize this is a problem,” Kern said. “We also recognize that we are not the only ones with this problem.”
However, Moore doesn’t seem satisfied with this answer.
“It’s up to our city to help these people,” she said. “That doesn’t make it okay to break the rules and continue to destroy this country.”