Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Crews went to work clearing out brush from another area frequented by the homeless in Crescent City on Friday.

Police Chief Doug Plack directed traffic at Cooper Avenue and J Street as an inmate crew from Alder Camp chopped, whacked and removed brush and undergrowth at a corner known to be a homeless hangout.

"It really has had a positive impact on the community," said Plack. "We've been receiving nothing but compliments for establishing more of a friendly atmosphere."

The massive clearing of brush that began two weeks ago on about 20 acres behind the Jedediah Smith Shopping Center and has now expanded to Cooper and J is for safety, aesthetic and environmental reasons, Plack said.

The Alder Camp crew worked fast to clear the quarter-acre of the city's land on Cooper.

Nearby residents were pleased with the effort.

"There was a lot of riffraff and homeless people sleeping in the bushes," said Patricia Lewis, a friend of one of the residents.

The smell of marijuana smoke would emanate from the area, Lewis said.

"They'd be over there all the time - daytime, nighttime - I came over here one morning to have coffee and I saw two people fornicating," said Lewis. "I'm happy to see some of it gone ... it has to be done, it's a big problem."

Serenity DeWolf, a resident in the area, echoed those sentiments.

"There's always homeless and tweakers," said DeWolf. "They're always standing across the street. Most of them are on meth. You could tell by how they were acting."

DeWolf said her children were scared to play in the neighborhood because of the inhabited brush.

The clearing work at both sites has been a major undertaking that took the cooperation of several agencies, including the city, the fairgrounds, Rural Human Services, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority.

The authority agreed to waive the dump costs of all the waste gathered.

The Alder Camp crew cost the city $200 a day, and rental equipment cost an additional $200, said city planner and code enforcement officer Eric Taylor.

Police and RHS employees have been providing displaced transients with a list of social services in the community that would provide food and help with finding shelter, Plack said.

He previously estimated about 50 homeless people had been displaced from behind the shopping center, and said a much smaller number was displaced Friday near Cooper and J.

Behind the shopping center Friday, there were two 40-yard bins about 20 feet high that were filled with garbage and surrounded by pallets, shopping carts, mattresses, a wood stove, refrigerator, television set and other household items used by some 75 transients who had called the area home. Another bin had already been hauled to the transfer station.

Nearby was a quarter-acre mountain of brush. Volunteer firefighters will burn the pile once the proper permits are attained, Plack said.

The area wasn't just inundated with the materials of the homeless, but was a dumping ground. Earlier in the week an SUV missing its tires with a smashed-in windshield was towed away. Many of the shopping carts that were sitting next to the bin were fished out of a pond.

"People think this is an unofficial dumping ground, unfortunately," said Plack.

Theft calls from Safeway are down, Plack said. Some transients were known to steal from the grocery store then run into the refuge of the brush, he said.

Now, officers have a clear sight of much of the property, giving thieves little cover. The work has made it safer for law enforcement to respond to calls, Plack said.

The clearing is also good for the environment, as most of the brush was invasive species including blackberry bushes and noxious weeds that sapped the life out of surrounding trees, Plack said.

The work is expected to be maintained to ensure the dilapidation does not return, Plack said.

"This is short term," said Plack. "We need to be vigilant in coming back."

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