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Spokane Parks and Rec spends $109K on illegal camp cleanup

SPOKANE, Wash. - It's nothing they haven't seen before, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating for the people left to clean up illegal camp sites.

As spring blooms in Spokane, acting parks and recreation director Garrett Jones says his department sees a boom in illegal camping, especially over the last few years.

"A lot of it is access problems, that it does take us awhile to get down there and it takes us awhile to remove the trash and some of the other debris," said Jones. "They also have quite an affect on the environment in some cases as well, whether it's trash or cutting down of trees."

Jones tells KXLY camp cleanup prevents parks employees from working on other projects for the city, costing them time -- and a lot of money -- and they have the numbers to prove it.

In 2018, Spokane Parks and Recreation spent 1,666 hours picking up 131,680 pounds of debris from illegal campsites in city parks, which cost the department $109,000. 

As frustrating as it may be, Jones and his team aren't about to stop cleaning now.

"Our crews do a great job keeping an open mind, you know, that this is, has been a trend and we're going to embrace it," he said. "We're going to do our best to embrace it and keep up on it as best we can."

Jones recommends calling 3-1-1 if you come across a homeless camp. Once you do that, your report will be passed along to the proper department, whether that's city code enforcement, Spokane Police, or Parks and Rec. Jones said becase Spokane is split into so many jurisdictions, response times could improve, so the City of Spokane is working to create a single illegal camp cleanup team that can respond to sites across the city.


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