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Santa Cruz Police oficers provide security for park rangers and workers cleaning out a homeless camp near Harvey West Business Park Thursday. (Dancoyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ -- More than 10 syringes and hundreds of pounds of trash were collected from an illegal camp in a wooded area near Encinal Street on Thursday.

Police said at least two people had camped in two tents at the site, which is on private property behind 440 Encinal St.

The Clean Team, a volunteer group that removes trash from public land and waterways, notified authorities about the camp on Sunday. City officials contacted the property owner, who was cooperative and is expected to pay for the cleanup.

City workers put notices to vacate on the tents on Tuesday, said chief park ranger Heather Reiter.

Thursday, two park employees, police and three Labor Ready workers hired by the city filled more than half of a 20-yard waste container with garbage from the camp. A stench of human waste permeated the air.

Among piles of dirty clothing and food containers, authorities found a Trek mountain bike, at least five youth baseball bats and a pogo stick.

"This is just how they wanted to leave it for us," said Santa Cruz police officer Ron Inouye, who supervised the cleanup.

Reiter noted that parks rangers have collected more than 27 tons of garbage from city parks in the past four months.

The site is uphill and across the street from Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School at 425 Encinal St.


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Josh Karter, Kirby's head of school, said he was aware of camps on the hill since the school moved there from downtown Santa Cruz about seven years ago. He said the situation had improved in recent years as larger campsites were removed or disbanded.

Kirby students have not interacted with people from the camp that was cleared Thursday.

"It has had zero impact on the school over the years," Karter said. "These people don't want to be bothered, and they don't bother us."

Kirby leaders had more problems when the school was downtown because some of the homeless slept on school property, Karter said.

Kirby, a private school, has about 225 students in grades 6 to 12.

The campsite was on private property where the biotech firm Quntaphy Inc. has offices. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education also is a few buildings down the street from the campsite.

At least one employee there thanked the park rangers and trash crew for their work on Thursday.

"We didn't know about the amount of trash because our employees don't go up there," said Michael Watkins, the Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools.

"I think we have both people who are looking for a safe place to sleep and others who are drug users," he said. "I think we need a countywide strategy for these issues."

Police asked workers in the area and elsewhere to report illegal campsites by calling 831-420-5892.

Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter on Twitter at Twitter.com/sbaxter_sc

TRASH CLEANUP RESOURCES

Report illegal camps in Santa Cruz by calling the Santa Cruz police illegal campsite hot line at 831-420-5892.
Find volunteer cleanup events of The Clean Team at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/564421826916911/?fref=ts

Editor's note: The headline in this article has been updated to accurately state the amount of trash collected