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'Homeless' fence along trail quickly knocked down

Gresham hoped $12,000 barrier would protect woods from damage

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Hundreds of yards of fence along the Springwater Corridor Trail was in ruins Monday after vandals knocked it down. The fence was meant to protect the 60-acre Gresham Woods area from camping, vandalism and other crime. A plastic fence surrounding 60 acres along the Springwater Trail meant to keep homeless people from camping in the woods was torn down hours after it was constructed.

The city of Gresham is spending $12,000 to line the section along the trail between Southwest Pleasant Drive and Towle Avenue known as Gresham Woods. Within hours of it going up last week it was almost completely torn down.

The city is trying to keep homeless people out of the area because years of camping has destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of land restoration and neighbors were complaining increasingly of threats from campers. Police also reported a big jump in calls to the area during the summer.

Last week the city took the unprecedented action of invoking an emergency clause allowing it to close the area to protect the land and, if they were caught, fine violators up to $2,500.

The fence construction began Wednesday and was continuing Monday, despite the damage to other areas.

Along parts of the trail Monday the fence was knocked over and 5-foot high metal posts were bent or pulled out of the ground. In other areas the fence was cut and in one area it was burned. Many of the signs warning against trespassing were destroyed.

A metal sign posted on the Northwest 14th Drive entrance to the trail that reads "No motorized vehicles" was covered with graffiti reading "No homeless."

The city is paying $12,000 to Cedar Mill Construction to put up the fence, which one crew member Monday said was vandalized as little as two hours after it was installed.

When asked if he was surprised, he said no.

That seemed to be the sentiment from others on the trail as well.

Debbie Henry walks the trail a few times a week and was not surprised at the damage, but was stunned by the amount.

“I came on Saturday and it was up. Today, here I am and they already destroyed it,” Henry said Monday. “There’s no sense of respect for other’s property. I didn’t expect them to do this much damage.”

A man riding a unicycle on the trail Monday was surprised for a different reason.

“I’m just baffled. They (the city of Gresham) thought this was going to work? They’re crazy,” said Mike, who declined to give his last name. “Of course it’s not going to stay up.”

Mike takes his unicycle out on the trail a few times a week and said he’s never felt threatened by homeless people camping in the woods.

“They ruined (the trail) with this orange,” Mike said of the city’s fence.

The city is deciding what to do next, but intends to enforce its emergency exclusion ordinance.

“The city is evaluating our options, including alternatives to the barrier fence and is pulling together cost estimates,” Elizabeth Coffey, a city spokeswoman, said Monday. “In the meantime, we have no intention of abandoning the natural resource exclusion area and will fully enforce it as such. Gresham Woods remains closed to any and all human activity. Trespassers found in Gresham Woods will be arrested.”

Signs every few feet on the sections of plastic fence that were still intact warned those on the Springwater Trail of this, saying violators are subject to arrest and prosecution and fines up to $2,500.

Coffey said the damage was "not anticipated" and that city will be conducting a “rigorous investigation” of the vandalism.

The city is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who caused the damage. Anyone with information is asked to call a police tip line at 503-618-2719.

A photo gallery of the damage can be viewed below.