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Juniper Ridge transient camps still concern neighbors

KTVZ

Transient camps continue to be a concern for residents in a neighborhood by the city of Bend-owned Juniper Ridge property at the city’s north end. Some say the concern is only increasing.

City officials acknowledge people who live there feel threatened. They say they’re worried about fires getting out of control, stray dogs attacking their pets and trash being left on the ground.

Officials say they’ve been working on addressing those concerns for the past three years. They say the city spent roughly $36,000 in November for a big trash cleanup, then spent another $25,000 on a firebreak clearing along the edges of Juniper Ridge to prevent the spread of any fire that breaks out there.

Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore said Wednesday the problem is the city does not have a lot of other tools at its disposal right now. For example, there are not enough shelter beds in Central Oregon to meet the demands.

“The solution might be collectively for us a region to figure out, do we want to have more shelters? Are there perhaps more transitional housing approaches to take?” Skidmore said. “Our council does want to look at some more transitional-type housing. That’s actually one of our goals with council coming up.”

NewsChannel 21 spoke with a woman who just moved into a house right next to Juniper Ridge. Stephanie Rodea said her neighbor suggested she build a fence in her backyard to create a boundary between her house and the undeveloped city property.

Rodea said she probably is not going to do that, but is still taking extra measures to make sure her four children stay safe.

“The other day I did change — making sure they don’t go on their bikes down there,” Rodea said. “They can go this way, because there are houses and friends. I don’t let them go in that empty cul-de-sac. I don’t like to live in fear and assume that any homeless person is going to be dangerous, you just don’t want your kids around strangers regardless. It’s definitely on my mind lately.”

There are signs posted at Juniper Ridge that say camping and campfires are not allowed. Officials say city council does not have a strong desire to evict those who are living there.

“Really, what we’re doing at this point is building a management plan for the property so that we can better manage the impacts,” Skidmore said. “Who knows if we would ever get to the point of going through the trespass process to essentially evict these campers? That is a council decision that hasn’t been made.”

Skidmore said the goal is to eventually turn Juniper Ridge into a place that will provide an employment base for the city of Bend. In fact, councilors were given an update Wednesday evening on major sewer and road plans on and near the property that will allow more business development to occur there, but those big-ticket projects will take years to come to fruition.

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