EUGENE, Ore. -- The state will be taking public comment on a possible permanent camping ban on the Willamette River banks and islands in Eugene Wednesday.
The banks and islands of the river have proven to be a hot spot for homeless campers, officials said. The campers have caused sanitation and safety issues in the past. The Oregon Department of State Lands announced a temporary camping ban in May, closing the riverbanks and islands for any use between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Any type of camping and campfires were also banned.
The state is now seeking to make those rules permanent, though the public reaction to the effectiveness of the rules has been mixed.
KEZI 9 News saw numerous campers on the riverbanks while covering this story.
According to Willamette Riverkeeper's South Valley advocate Michelle Emmons, law enforcement agencies have been unsure of who is in charge of enforcing the ban, and the logistics of safely removing people from small islands has proven challenging. Additionally, she said campers have improved at camping out-of-sight.
"This is not about villainizing homelessness," Emmons said. "Even though we are not going to address the big problem right away by banning camping on riverbanks, it gets us into the discussion of what else are we going to do."
Residents and parkgoers said they hope the ban could improve cleanliness along the river.
"I'm not against people getting help, but I'm not going to keep condoning it. Why should we have to clean up the mess? There's so much garbage everywhere," said Patti Duschka.
Other residents said the campers aren't too bothersome and that a permanent ban could unfairly punish people who are homeless.
The state will be taking public comment on the ban on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Parks and Open Space building at 1820 Roosevelt Boulevard. Residents can also comment online.