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Campers in woods off China Hat Road south of Bend get notice to vacate; temporary campfire ban imposed

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Faced with a rising tide of calls for action about campers off China Hat Road from southern Bend residents and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, the Deschutes National Forest conducted an “emphasis patrol” in early June, imposing a new temporary campfire ban and issuing notices to vacate their often long-time locations.

While the campfire ban was new, the 14-day notices to move on – actually 28 days total in a calendar year – have been issued frequently over the years, to little practical impact, Public Affairs Officer Jean Nelson-Dean said Thursday.

“We don’t have the authority to trespass people from public lands,” Nelson-Dean said. “We write a citation,” with a $100 fine, for federal court. But “magistrates have said, ‘We have bigger fish to fry,’” she said – and “even when we get people to move out, other people will move in.”

Nelson-Dean noted that recent homeless campsite removals by the city of Bend and ODOT have prompted more homeless to take up residence in the woods off China Hat Road – prompting heightened concern about fire and other dangers by nearby residents.

“What we’re trying to do is reduce the number of people out there,” Nelson-Dean said, with some possibly facing trespassing action if there for a long time.

Some Bend city councilors expressed dismay that the Forest Service was taking such action amid heightened efforts to coordinate and come up with solutions, with no plan in place for where the campers will go next.

Nelson-Dean said the Forest Service is hopeful the new coordinated efforts to deal with homeless issues by Deschutes County and its cities will help address the issues and look at "how we can all work together."

But in the meantime, challenges remain, she said, and pushing people out of one area just adds to issues for neighboring jurisdictions.

“We have four law enforcement officers for 1.8 million acres,” Nelson-Dean noted. “We have removed hundreds and hundreds of vehicles out there.”

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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