SALT LAKE CITY — Police are cleaning house this week in City Creek Canyon, where transient camps have apparently become a problem.
Nestled withing the trees and trails, an owner has built a short wall with branches. The cobwebs are evidence that he's been here for a while. Police say he has lived there for at least seven months. The camp is considered extravagant and clean. Others pose some serious health risks.
"I have seen bottles of urine, feces in buckets, sometimes spilled over and certainly needles on occasion," said Nicholas Rupp from the Salt Lake County health department.
Beginning Monday, police will be handing out 24-hour citations for illegal camping in the canyon. The message they're hoping to send is this: Go where you want, but you can't stay here.
Tuesday, those involved in the cleanup will return to begin throwing away anything left behind.
Salt Lake City police say they are trying to preserve the natural beauty of City Creek Canyon. They also want recreationists in the area to feel safe.
"City Creek Canyon is a protected watershed," said Det. Charli Goodman of the Salt Lake City police department. "It's the water we drink here in Salt Lake City so it's important to preserve and protect that water."
They also want to prevent illegal poaching of wildlife, aggressive panhandling, and even crime like burglary and theft.
They say they have fielded a variety of complaints over the transients and activity in the canyon, specifically related to crime and health violations.
"In addition, these subjects are often using the residents' homes in the area as restrooms on the outside of their property and under trees and in their yards and whatnot," Goodman said.
Even though they're posting warning signs, they are also giving information about shelters and social services.
The police kicked out a man named John and his girlfriend Alma. They don't have jobs and say they wanted to get away from crowded shelters and drug users.
"It was quiet," John said. It was cleaned up. Nobody bothered us."
They say they'll pack up and leave and try to get some help.
Police will be helped by county health officials, the Utah Highway Patrol, the Division of Wildlife Resources and various humanitarian groups. Volunteers from the Fourth Street Clinic and Volunteers of America will be on hand to offer shelter and social services for those who want it.