Illegal campers are warned to remove their belongings before municipal staff return to get rid of tarps and other material. (Advocate file photo).

81 homeless camps removed from Red Deer parks so far this year

Parks workers are catching up after a six-week COVID-19-related lull

After a six-week COVID-19-related lull, Red Deer’s parks workers are once again cleaning up homeless encampments in the woods.

So far, 81 so-called rough sleeper camps have been removed from the city’s parks and trails this year — mostly as a reaction to citizens’ complaints.

Karen Mann, the city’s emergency operations director, said this compares to 107 camps that were cleaned up over the same period last year.

“The differential is due to the first six weeks of our COVID response,” when no camp removals were being done.

When illegal campers are discovered in forested parts of the city, they are given warning to remove their personal belongings before municipal staff return to get rid of the camp and re-mediate the natural area.

“We are encouraging people who are facing homelessness to access an indoors, safer place,” said Mann.

Recently, Safe Harbour relocated its mat program for homeless sleepers into the former Cannery Row Bingo Centre. The larger location allows for more personal distance between sleepers to reduce viral transmissions.

Mann said any residents concerns about homeless campers can call 403-343-5575.

Red Deer residents might have noticed a six-week delay of some parks maintenance projects, since the city had put off hiring spring and summer parks workers due to the pandemic response.

During this period, staff from other areas were called on to do some of the parks work, said Mann.

Since then, some of the seasonal hiring was done, so “we’re up to speed now.”

Some replanting is already underway in neighbourhoods that lost large trees to the wind storms of 2017.

City workers are also planning the Ross Street Patio. Mann said there will be a patio this summer, and it will be installed within a month.

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