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Monroe cleans up multiple camp sites in parks in August

MONROE — Over the month of August, city parks staff put in dozens of hours cleaning up illegal encampments, leading to dozens of trash bags of debris being hauled out. 
The encampments were found in Al Borlin Park and Sky River Park. Parks crews are directed to keep an eye out for encampments daily, and they are tasked to clean them out with the help of the Police Department.
“We’ve always done daily regular park maintenance, but since the beginning of this year we were directed by the mayor and city council to search unmarked or foot trails leading from the city parks,” city parks director Mike Farrell said last week. “We log what we come across there and contact police so it’s good we can work together with the police.”
On Aug. 14 and 16, three camps were discovered at Al Borlin Park and one camp was discovered at Sky River Park. Crews spent 14 hours of labor collecting 25 bags of litter from the sites. An earlier cleanup Aug. 6 collected six bags of litter from five hours of work.
In each, the Police Department was asked to assist with possibly connecting the transient campers to resources.
Police officers were busy last week contacting more people in unauthorized encampments along the river.
The Police Department’s embedded social worker program allows its part-time social worker Elisa Delgado to talk with and persuade some transients to get into county or state programs that could assist them with either employment or detox from drugs. 
The embedded social worker program  began in April, and will run for two years thanks to money from the city and county. 
Delgado told the Tribune last month the transient population is often misunderstood, while Monroe Police Sgt. Ryan Irving said that sometimes officers encounter individuals who just want to camp and be free.
It’s a toss-up any time the crews and police go out to the encampments. 
“The police supports parks’ effort of getting rid of camps by taking out all the garbage that is left behind,” said Police Department spokeswoman Debbie Willis. “It is a joint effort.”
Sometimes, it isn’t parks crews or police that discover the encampments, but residents, Farrell said. 
City staff are spending an average of eight hours of labor in each cleanup and collecting an average of 11.6 bags of litter, according to a parks staff analysis of cleanups done in August and one in late July. 
In a follow-up email from Farrell regarding the
cleanup, he said Parks crews collected 20 trash bags that were 40-gallon sized. 
“There are many, many discarded items in these encampments, mainly debris,” Farrell said.
Most of the items in the encampments have little to do with recreational camping, according to Farrell; there are several boxes of various items, as well as clothing and toiletries — all of which is broken, destroyed or soiled. 
Camping in Monroe parks is not permitted in city code and doing so can result in a fine or an arrest. 

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