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35-year Bend resident leaving Oregon, says China Hat Road homeless encampments, issues continue to worsen

'We are Bend -- and we're leaving. And that's too bad'; forest supervisor issues statement on situation

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Kevin Guadagno is a 35-year Bend resident, who after leaving for a time, moved back to Bend from Colorado in 2008. Shortly after that, he and his wife bought their property in southeast Bend, near China Hat Road, to ride horses and recreate in the Deschutes National Forest.

"We've been in the parades and supported this town for 35 years. I work in the town, I pay taxes in the town," Guadagno told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday.

But now, as more homeless encampments pop up in the woods just south of town, Guadagno and his wife have made the decision to move out of Central Oregon -- in fact, they are leaving the state entirely.

"These people have been there for 3 1/2 years. They've taken up residences, they've put up 'no trespassing' signs, they have outhouses just right on the trails, we pick up their dirty diapers. And we're just tired of it," Guadagno explained.

He said a lack of enforcement from the Forest Service of their 14-day camping limit, along with fears that his horses or dogs may get shot while in the area, have forced him to decide to leave Bend.

And an anonymous Bend resident who grew up in the city added, "Our biggest concern for the community is fire, and that's something we've addressed with the Forest Service."

They continued, "There's so much garbage, there's needles, there's feces, there's poaching. It's just not a safe place. And we can no longer utilize our public lands."

Back in August, NewsChannel 21 went on a ride-along with a Deschutes County sheriff's deputy who was assigned to patrol China Hat Road full-time, in order to help prevent wildfires.

In October, a woman living on China Hat Road lost her life in the hospital, a week after her space heater exploded in her trailer.

Last month, transient Nathaniel Gideon Bennett, 34, was arrested after being accused of pointing a gun at family visiting Bend, and firing a shot at them when they came upon his campsite in the area.

Deschutes National Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes told NewsChannel 21 in a statement:

“We hear—and share—the concerns of our community around visitor safety on the Deschutes National Forest. We cannot comment on the ongoing investigation following the November 25 incident 3 miles south of the Forest boundary with the City of Bend near Fuzztail Butte but are grateful that no one was physically injured."

She continued, "Our main objectives as land managers are to reduce the risk from wildfire, protect and conserve natural resources, and to provide high quality recreation experiences. While we do not have direct control over many environmental, natural, and human events across the 1.6-million-acre Deschutes National Forest, we strive to provide safe visitor experiences, and our Forest Service Law Enforcement officers and Field Rangers work closely with local law enforcement to identify and manage individuals who violate regulations and break the law."

"The overwhelming majority of the nearly five million visitors to the Forest each year have a positive experience and adhere to forest regulations and state and local laws. Long-term homelessness in Central Oregon adds additional challenges to meeting our land management objectives."

"We do have a 14 day stay limit. It was designed for recreational camping, not to manage long term homelessness. Issuance of a violation notice for exceeding the 14 days stay limit is a misdemeanor offense which results in a ticket similar to receiving a traffic violation in other jurisdictions. It does not give the Forest Service the legal authority to remove someone or their belongings without a judicial decision."

Jewkes concluded, "That said, we believe this is not simply an enforcement issue. In order to find lasting solutions to the homeless/houseless issues our communities are facing, we must and are working in collaboration with the City of Bend and Deschutes County to address this complex social issue that does not start or stop on a single jurisdictional boundary. We are confident that the strong partnerships we have had for decades with the City of Bend and Deschutes County will help us work together towards sustainable solutions.”

Guadagno added, "It's just so sad. We're the tax base here. We're the folks that this is our primary home. We don't just come up from the south or from over the valley to go skiing, we work here, we live here. We are Bend. And we're leaving. And that's too bad."

The other concerned resident told us, "As a lifelong Oregonian, it just breaks my heart to see the state of Oregon, and how much it's declined."

The offense for violating a 14-day stay limit is a misdemeanor offense, which results in a ticket similar to receiving a traffic violation.

We tried to reach the Oregon federal court in Eugene to see how many citations issued by the Deschutes National Forest have been paid, but have not heard back.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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