Why are people camping at Cascade Gateway and Wallace Marine parks? On March 16, 2020, City Council adopted Resolution NO 2020-18, declaring a state of emergency in Salem related to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Resolution restricted public gatherings and suspended laws prohibiting camping in the unimproved areas of Wallace Marine and Cascades Gateway Parks. Temporarily allowing camping was a means to slow the spread of COVID-19 by providing socially distanced space for the unsheltered in our community.
For the past 14 months, the City has provided campers with potable water and toilets. Local advocates and organizations have provided services, and caseworkers have worked to connect campers to healthcare, vaccine clinics, housing, and other services. The ‘cash for trash’ program helped with day-to-day garbage collection. As garbage accumulated and public health concerns grew, the City collected garbage and maintained park spaces.
Where are people camping at Cascade Gateway and Wallace Marine Parks?
By May 2021, as many as 400 people live in the parks. Some areas are not managed by service providers and have become unsanitary, a threat to public health and safety. In these unmanaged areas, campsites are not adequately distanced as required by Resolution 2021-21 and the volume of waste creates the potential for illness, harm to the public, and increases the likelihood that individual campers may contract COVID-19.
Why is the temporary camping program ending? When will the temporary camping program end?
Because of the unhealthy conditions cited above, camping and overnight use of these two parks will end in June 2021. In ending the program, the goal is to restore safe park use for everyone and restore the environmental conditions at Cascades Gateway and Wallace Marine Parks.
What should we expect after park camping ends?
Temporary camping will no longer be allowed as of June 1, 2021. It will take time to help campers find other, safe locations to shelter. The COVID-19 Pandemic has also limited available shelter in the region. The City plans to work with area nonprofits to make more low barrier, managed, temporary shelter options available.
How long will it take for park campers to move out?
This will be a gradual change, with a focus first on the unmanaged camping areas. Work with individual campers, to help find other safe places to shelter, has been occurring for months. Campers are aware the temporary camping program is set to end in June 2021.
Are crews throwing away people’s personal belongings during scheduled park restoration efforts?
No. Crews are focused on cleaning abandoned campsites, garbage, and hazardous gear such as sharp metal, soiled furniture, unusable cookware, discarded needles, fragmented bicycles, and broken equipment that may present an environmental danger.