Crews clean up abandoned homeless camps on Sugarloaf Mountain outside Nevada City |

Crews clean up abandoned homeless camps on Sugarloaf Mountain outside Nevada City

Wednesday afternoon, Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis watched as a dump truck unloaded tarps, boards and less identifiable debris — which had been hauled out of abandoned homeless camps on Sugarloaf Mountain — into one of two dumpsters.

After hours of labor, the crew and volunteers were almost finished with a long-planned effort to clear the 35-acre property of trash and the residue of seven homeless camps. Those campsites had been vacant since June 8, when more than a dozen homeless people were moved off the mountain and into rooms at the Northern Queen Inn. It’s all been part of a collaborative 30-day pilot project involving Nevada County, Nevada City and a number of nonprofit agencies working intensively with the project participants to meet their needs, be it housing, drug treatment or other services.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Ellis said. “We’ll get done today.”

Over the previous week, crews had been improving access to the abandoned camps, widening a trail into an actual road so that the dump truck could get closer.

The cleanup team, which included six volunteers from the neighborhood, got an early start Wednesday to beat the heat and were close to finished by 1 p.m. About half of the team continued to work on a “pretty extensive” campsite higher up the mountain, Ellis said.

“Kudos to Waste Management for providing two dumpsters free of charge,” he said. “And United Rentals lent us the dump truck.”

According to Ellis, a fair amount of prep work was done by the camps’ former occupants in conjunction with Hospitality House staff to clear their camps and organize some of the debris. Anything they wanted to keep and couldn’t store is being kept in a shipping container provided by Sierra Roots.

“It was a lot easier for us to go in and grab stuff,” he said. “It’s been going faster than I imagined.”

Nevada City also plans to expand the new access road to create a fire break on the back side of Sugarloaf, Ellis said.

“We’re still working on getting a fire crew,” he said. “Washington Ridge or Cal Fire could be options, they could use it as training.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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