Organizations as varied as Nevada City’s police department and a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the South Yuba River are pitching in to clean up Nevada City’s Sugar Loaf Mountain Saturday.
But they need help.
“I have my fingers crossed. I am hoping for a good turnout,” said Jeffrey Dupra, an outreach worker for a Grass Valley nonprofit homeless service provider, who coordinated volunteers for the cleanup.
Nevada City purchased the 30-acre Sugar Loaf Mountain in 2011 for $450,000 to preserve it as a public space free from development and subsequently annexed the area into the city’s boundaries in September of that year.
The site is riddled with accumulated trash, said Nevada City Police Chief Jim Wickham, whose officers are now responsible for the area.
“A lot of that trash has been there for a while,” Wickham said. “Some of that is on private property.”
There is so much accumulated waste that Wickham, who estimated the cost to the city to clean it up would be around $3,000, reached out to other agencies for help.
Waste Management, the city’s contracted trash collector, is donating a 30-yard debris box for Saturday’s cleanup. The South Yuba River Citizen League will donate leftover garbage bags from its annual river cleanup day, Dupra said. The Food Bank of Nevada County will reportedly provide snacks to volunteers. Nevada County Mental Health is also participating, Dupra noted.
“Definitely bring gloves,” Dupra said. “It’s not savory trash. This stuff has been out there for a while, and the gloves are a protective measure.”
Because of its isolated nature, the site has hosted homeless campers and vagrants, as well as serving as a dumping ground, Wickham said.
“There is a kind of a rumor that (drug) use up there has been heavy there over the years,” Wickham said.
While two Nevada City Police Department officers were surveying the area Feb. 26, they discovered a man and a woman with needles and spoons in the act of shooting narcotics, according to dispatch and arrest logs.
“Part of the program is to clean it up and address this whole camping issue,” Wickham said. “Once people see things cleaned up and that officers are monitoring the area, people will be more inclined to use it, knowing it is no longer a haven for drug use and criminal activity.”
In January, Nevada City’s homeless-curbing no-camping ordinance took effect. The regulation requires anyone who intends to sleep on public property to obtain a permit to exempt them from a camping ordinance.
A homeless person who can demonstrate adequate safety and health standards, such as plans for handling human waste, and has no outstanding warrants can approach the city for a permit.
Prior to the ordinance, Wickham estimated there were 15 camps at Sugar Loaf. Since then, police have posted signs notifying campers of the ordinance and its planned enforcement.
The result, Wickham said, is the number of campsites has dropped to three.
“They left on their own because they didn’t want to deal with the police,” he said.
Of those who remain, Wickham said none have approached the city for a permit, making them subject to citation.
When Wickham reported the cleanup to the council at its February meeting, Mayor Duane Strawser pointed out that not all of the trash was placed there by homeless people — some of it is from illegal dumping, he said.
“It is exaggerating the perception that it is our homeless population causing that,” Strawser said, to which the police chief agreed.
Either way, the trash needs to go, Wickham said.
Dupra was excited by the community’s support of the cleanup as word spread by supporters through social media.
“I am excited,” Dupra said. “The weather looks like it’s going to be good.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.