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Fish: Occupy Portland costs, repair schedule unknown

Parks commission says it is too soon to know when Chapman and Lownsdale squares will reopen
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Almost all occupiers went home by Sunday morning, giving police an opportunity to peacefully clean up the camp sites at Chapman and Lownsdale squares without significant opposition.

City Parks Commissioner Nick Fish says it is too soon to know how long Chapman and Lownsdale squares will be closed, or how much it will cost to repair the damage caused by Occupy Portland campers.

'We're still cleaning them up and then need to bring in arborists, landscapers and other experts to assess the damage done to the turf, the trees and the structures,' Fish told the Portland Tribune Monday morning.

Fish said he did not know how much trash was removed during the weekend's reopening of the parks, but he called it a 'large' amount.

Parks officials estimated the damage at around $19,000 a few weeks ago. But that was before the tents and other coverings erected by the campers were removed, allowing a closer inspection.

The grassy areas in the squares are mostly mud and hard-packed dirt. New grass will not grow in them until the spring. This may require the parks bureau to keep people from walking on most of the squares for month, although

Fish said it may be possible to open the sidewalks that form a 'X' through the squares.

Fish also said that his office has received many calls from people who want to contribute to the repair costs. He said the Portland Parks Foundation will soon accept donations for the work. Interested people may also be able to donate time to the effort, Fish said.

After Sunday's closure, in which Occupy Portland protesters were pushed out of the parks, the two squares are surrounded by chain link fences topped with barbed wire. So is Terry Schrunk Plaza, the federal property just south of the two parks. The federal government has not yet announced its plans for the plaza.

Midnight deadline

Occupy Portland protesters set up camp in the squares Oct. 6. Hundreds of people stayed in the camps during the following five weeks.

Mayor Sam Adams allowed them to remain, despite city policies against public camping. He said the city was 'balancing' the protesters' free-speech rights against city anti-camping ordinances.

Problems escalated in recent weeks, however. According to police, crime increased in and around the camp. Three people overdosed on drugs in the camp and were taken to area hospitals for treatment. On Nov. 8, a person who was staying in the camp was arrested and charged with throwing a Molotov cocktail at the nearby World Trade Center.

Two days later, Adams announced that the squares would be closed to the public just after midnight on Sunday, Nov. 13. Police waited for several hours before evicting the campers, however. By then the large crowd that gathered at the squares around midnight had dissipated. Only a few hundred campers remained. Police arrested 51 of them while clearing the squares.

City workers then erected the fences around the squares and plaza, where some protesters had begun camping. Police are patrolling the parks around the clock.