Furniture, bookcases, barbecues, tents and 1,200 used syringes were among the items removed Monday from an unsanctioned campground in the Esplanade Park area in downtown Penticton.
Yet despite losing his home, camper Sylvain Demers had no hard feelings against the city bylaw officers who executed his eviction.
“No, not at all,” said Demers, before going on to praise the work of one particular bylaw officer, Glen Duffield, who Demers said took unofficial responsibility for the camping area.
“He’s been making sure the housing officials come down and things stay in motion, because they haven’t been for the last couple of years,” said Demers.
“That guy did more than we could ask for.”
Demers said he and about 30 others camping in the Esplanade area were given eviction notices 30 days earlier.
There had been more people living there, but “a lot of us got housing or a job, so they were able to move on,” said Demers, who plans to stay at a friend’s apartment while he waits for a spot in a drug-treatment program.
Evidence of drug use, such as naloxone kits, needles and vein tie-offs, was in abundance in the camping area Monday while the cleanup was underway. Also left behind were significant earthworks, including a set of stairs leading up to a makeshift toilet, and cleared, levelled spots for tents.
Bylaw services supervisor Tina Siebert said the rubbish, collected by a team of 12 in just seven hours, eventually filled four pickup trucks, three roll-off bins and two garbage trucks.
“This is really only a month’s worth of things. That just speaks to the activity,” added Siebert, who estimated the camp’s population at just six to eight people and noted a smaller-scale cleanup was done in early November.
Monday’s work was more comprehensive, she continued, because the city wanted to clear out as much trash as possible before the snow flies and to set the stage for extensive fire-mitigation work in the new year.
Siebert said the city is aware of some residents’ longstanding concerns about activities in the Esplanade area, but that it has to balance those worries with a lack of housing for society’s most vulnerable and their right to be in parks.