The Mount Shasta Police Department has been keeping the Clean and Safe Mount Shasta Team busy lately. After almost a year of fewer illegal campsite reportings, a flurry of abandoned campsites has kept the group hopping to keep up – or, as one of the volunteers said, eliciting a groan from everyone within earshot – “Business sure has been picking up!”
Last Wednesday, the team assembled near the Best Western Plus Tree House to clean up at least six abandoned campsites on the property directly south of the Mount Shasta Shopping Center. Last week’s camps were the largest experienced within the Mt. Shasta City limits since the Clean and Safe Mount Shasta Team was formed in 2017.
Drawn by a combination of privacy and services such as fast food restaurants and grocery stores, on-foot travelers have frequently chosen this area for summer campsites.
Seeking out these secluded camps is challenging, both to the police and to the Clean and Safe Team.
Identified during regular patrols, a group of more than six camps were recently found in nearly the same location, all difficult to find. Several of the camps showed evidence of having been used for months.
The Clean and Safe Team, working together with the Mount Shasta Police Department, uses an effective partnership to address illegal campsites. Whether reported by a citizen, a member of the Clean and Safe Team, or found during police patrols, information about a site can be reported to the non-emergency police dispatcher available 24 hours a day at 530-926-7540. An officer is then sent to the location to verify the campsite. If inhabited, the campers are informed that camping within city limits is illegal and are given 24 hours to vacate the location. A written notice is left at the campsite that lists the date that the site was verified, informing them that after 24 hours anything left is considered abandoned and will be thrown away. As campsites are often vacant during the day, a written notice helps deliver the message that illegal camping is not welcome in Mount Shasta. Residents and team volunteers work closely with law enforcement, walking and patrolling locations where camps have been known to reoccur.
Returning to the site as soon as their workload permits, officers verify that the site has been vacated, capture the site location using GPS, and post the information to the Clean and Safe Mt. Shasta Team Facebook working group page. This initiates a Clean and Safe Team volunteer to follow up to determine the amount of material left behind. If the site is small, trash is collected the same day and taken to the Black Butte Transfer Station; if the site is larger, a team cleanup date is scheduled for the site. In the case of the sites cleaned up last week, a full team event was needed and scheduled, and it took a large effort to clean them up.
Developed by Mount Shasta Police Department Lieutenant Joe Restine, the methodology used to notify Clean and Safe using GPS that follow-up is needed to remove trash is very effective.
“We encourage the public to contact the Police Department to report illegal campsites whenever they are encountered,” said Lt. Restine in a recent interview. “We rely on citizens to walk their neighborhoods and local area parks and trails and to contact us whenever camps are seen,” he added. “There is no need to interact with or confront campers; we will handle the response. Just use the ‘See something, Say something’ approach and call us, we’ll handle any follow-up that is needed.”
The City of Mount Shasta is also a major and very helpful partner to the Clean and Safe initiative. Since the sites last week were so large, Public Works employees delivered a 10 cubic yard dumpster to be used by the volunteer team, and it was completely filled within a few hours. Typically team volunteers drive bagged trash to the transfer station, but this group of camps was so large that the Public Works department was recruited to help with their largest dump truck, which they have done several times in the past.
Much of the material left behind is fabric, but also includes abandoned food wrappers, plastic bottles and other beverage containers – and lots of paper and other trash. Cardboard used in place of an air mattress, plastic sheeting for rain protection, old tents, and pieces of carpet are also common debris left behind.
“This was a real mess, the worst we have ever seen in town,” according to Todd Cory, a team volunteer, active hiker in the Mount Shasta area, and one of the Clean and Safe Mt. Shasta Team coordinators. “We were completely surprised by the size of these campsites; we had no idea they were in the area.”
Volunteer Perry Sims, who coordinates the Facebook page the team uses, said with a smile, “We’re glad to see the sites returned to nature. Thanks to all those who showed up to help out, the team effort was great.”
Although surprised by the size of the campsites found and cleaned last week, the number of campsites reported by the police department has dropped since last year, a trend that everyone hopes will continue. Actions from several agencies or groups have been effective in reducing the sites available for illegal camping, such as closing the lower plantations near Mount Shasta by the Forest Service, as well as adopting new ordinances by the Mount Shasta City Park.
Effective partnerships and cooperation from many groups are also helping deliver the message that Mount Shasta takes illegal camping seriously, and community awareness and responsiveness have also risen about the problem.
The Mount Shasta Clean and Safe Team was formed in 2017 as a partnership between public volunteers and the Mount Shasta Police Department, and it includes other local law enforcement agencies. The team relies on business and individual donations for materials and supplies, and donations are tax free through the Mount Shasta Trail Association, the group’s financial agent. Additional partners include the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department for enforcement outside of city limits (530-841-2900), as well as the Mount Shasta Forest Service Ranger Station (530-926-4511) for illegal sites on public lands.
For more information, to donate or to volunteer, look for the team’s Facebook page – Clean and Safe Mt. Shasta – or contact Glenn Harvey at 530-925-9287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.