Emails show lack of action at Springwater Corridor

Many say the problem wouldn't be so bad if the city had listened to complaints earlier

Trash spotted by dragon boat racers on the Willamette River near the Springwater Corridor Trail, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Trash spotted by dragon boat racers on the Willamette River near the Springwater Corridor Trail, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The recently-announced Springwater Corridor cleanup is set to begin on August 1, but some are saying the problem wouldn’t be as bad if something had been done months ago.

Now Mayor Charlie Hales is expressing concerns about the same things the the Bureau of Environmental Services has been trying to get attention for all along.

Emails from BES show months of communications to the mayor’s office, detailing concerns about properties along the corridor, including the Foster Floodplain Natural Area. Homeless camps have continued to pop up in that area, where dogs aren’t even allowed because it’s an environmentally sensitive area.

The BES emails also mention how the city’s clean up complaint system, called “One Point of Contact” has become a bottleneck in the flow of information.

Along the Springwater Corridor in Portland, July 13, 2016 (KOIN)
Along the Springwater Corridor in Portland, July 13, 2016 (KOIN)

In the emails, BES staff said they were so frustrated with the lack of response from the mayor’s office, they were planning to take action, even if that meant doing so without city approval.

A message sent to the homeless reporting site on May 4 says, “This camp is growing with more people, dogs, piles of mostly stolen bikes … and tons of garbage and debris,” and “We really need the camp there to be taken care of.” When no action was taken, the message was sent again on May 12 and again on June 1.

Since then the problem has mushroomed, with a recent fire, shooting and several neighborhood protests. An email from one BES staffer to others after the shooting says, “They are 100% taking the opinion that the shooting at this area doesn’t necessitate a cleanup … and in fact don’t want to create a precedent.”

The Springwater Trail near the intersection of SE 92nd and Flavel, June 29, 2016 (KOIN)
The Springwater Trail near the intersection of SE 92nd and Flavel, June 29, 2016 (KOIN)

Britta Taylor, who lives near the Springwater Corridor, says she’s been trying to get a response from the city since last year. She thinks if they’d listened to her complaints, the problem wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it has become.

Taylor says she’s tried reporting the homeless problems she has experienced multiple times a week for months, with no response.

“We would call the City of Portland and the mayor’s office directly. Sometimes the police department who would refer us to the City of Portland,” Taylor said. “The mayor’s office was kind of funny because now that’s not what they’re saying. But the mayor’s staff actually were the ones that told us the mayor told the police not to enforce the law.”

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