The Oregon Department of Transportation has closed a park-and-ride stop that locals say had deteriorated into a homeless camp and roadside eyesore over the past year.
Officials with ODOT and Oregon State Police shut down the site, located just east of the northbound Interstate 5 ramps at Brooklake Road in Brooks, earlier this month.
Authorities say an illegal camp mounted at the location appeared to accrue a vast amount of garbage and vehicles, including rusted-out shells of RV rigs and broken-down passenger vehicles.
The Park & Ride was part of the state highway system, but ODOT Public Information Officer Angela Beers Seydel said it wasn't being used as intended.
"It had become a camp with many abandoned, scrapped vehicles and a lot of trash," Seydel said. "We had numerous concerns and complaints."
At times, motorists reported seeing bonfires blazing along the side of the road.
Complaints piled up to the point where the piles of garbage had to be removed and the Park & Ride shut down.
"Our goal is to maintain a safe, secure and effective transportation system for everyone. ODOT properties are not set up for camping and are often not safe locations, so it is illegal to camp on them," Seydel said.
Tuesday morning, Jan. 4, OSP and ODOT officials were on site along with a handful of tow trucks removing abandoned vehicles and other garbage hauling trucks. Other crews were cleaning and smoothing the grounds and adding concrete abutments. It was a complex process that began last year, working through a variety of agencies.
Records show that OSP tagged and removed 12 abandoned vehicles and seven RVs were towed. Additionally, 35,980 pounds of trash was removed and hauled to the nearby garbage burner.
"We know that the reasons people camp along state highways and on ODOT property are complex, so we work with community partners who are equipped to support the needs people may have," Seydel said. "Typically, we post a notice of intent to restore the property ten days in advance, giving our partners time to work with people who have been camping at the location.
"Our role is to restore state property for use in the transportation system, which includes removing anything campers have left behind," Seydel added. "Personal items are stored at our facilities for 30 days. Trash is disposed of."
The Park & Ride is now closed with concrete barriers blocking the entrance.
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