Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A coordinated effort by Crescent City and Pelican Bay State Prison crews resulted in a cleanup Thursday of a transient encampment located next to one of Crescent City’s most visited landmarks.

Inmate fire crew workers from Pelican Bay State Prison arrived in near-freezing weather at about 8 a.m., ready to clean up around the ADA ramp leading to Battery Point’s beach area.

City Manager Eric Wier said the effort started a couple weeks ago. He said city officials had been talking to PBSP Fire Chief Ryan Wakefield and decided to employ public works and the police department personnel.

Crews picked up wet camping materials, bedding, blankets, clothing, food packaging, tarps, buckets, furniture, exercise equipment, empty bottles and other refuse. They also used chainsaws to trim and thin brush in the area.

Police Chief Ivan Minsal said he went down a week or so ago to warn those living in the camps the city would be cleaning the area. Minsal said one person was found still camping and he didn’t have an issue with it.

“He just said, ‘OK, cool,’ grabbed his backpack and left,” Minsal said.

Minsal said he has patrolled the area daily since and has not encountered anyone living there.

Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin also lives in the area and expressed gratitude in an email to Pelican Bay Warden James Robertson for the work done by inmate crews.

“I am so proud of all who had a hand in this, recognizing the effort and so grateful for your support,” Gitlin wrote. “Please express my sentiments to Secretary Diaz. We ALL made this happen and have created a win-win environment to those who broke a sweat and to those in the community who so appreciate this program.”

Former District Attorney Jon Alexander and Triplicate contributing columnist also lives in the area and said camping has been just one problem he’s encountered, including garbage, fights and trespassing.

“We are in no way, tromping on the homeless,” Alexander said. “This has been a problem that we’ve been dealing with for a long time.”

Alexander said he has approached people who set up camp in the area, only to be told the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal’s ruling protects their right to camp there. Alexander, a former attorney, said he argued that the ruling allows sleeping in public places, not establishing a camping area.

By phone Thursday, he said anyone displaced by the cleanup had been offered food and shelter at Our Daily Bread Ministries. He said while the court ruling allows sleeping in public areas, it does not allow one to establish camps that violate the penal code or health and safety codes.

Cleanup was completed at 2 p.m. and the area is reopened to the public.