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Notorious Summerland hillside illegal camp cleaned up after years of issues

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - It has taken a coordinated effort, but the Summerland hillside camps are being dismantled and cleaned up.

They have been on a dangerous cliff between the freeway and the ocean for years.

Caltrans has a freeway widening project underway in the area and is working with several agencies on the cleanup plan. This involves Patriot Environmental Services, Union Pacific, and Santa Barbara County.

Heal the Ocean has spoken out strongly about this campsite and its impacts on the environment, especially the Summerland ocean quality nearby. The site has a variety of trash and waste, some of which that has gotten into the water below the tracks.

In recent years, fires have taken place at this location. The ashes and flames have been a threat to spread in high winds across the freeway into populated areas.

The site is across from a mobile home park and the QAD headquarters.

Those fires have had impacts on thousands of commuters using U.S. Highway 101.

"With the current situation we are under assault  with the human waste problem," said Hillary Hauser with Heal the Ocean.

Looking at aerial pictures of the hillside camps, trash and debris, "it was  obvious that it was going to get into the ocean if their camps are right on the storm drain. If their camps are right on a hill, that goes to the ocean everything, goes down hill."

This work is taking place now so the freeway widening project can continue with a retaining  wall. The goal is to have the area cleared for good with no further habitation,  and to keep the Summerland community safe.

 Over time, figuring out whose jurisdiction the camps are in and who will pay for the clean up has been an issue  and a slow one to resolve.

Hauser said, "is it Caltrans property, is it railroad property?   What side of the line  are you on?" 

The clean ups are a collaborative effort.

"All these agencies that are going in there and doing  a really clean up  job and not messing around with it , Patriot    Caltrans. It is really  it is a good thing," said Hauser.

Those contacted at the scene will be offered services with CityNet.

Kirsten Ayers with the Highway 101: Carpinteria to Santa Barbara project said, over the next year crews will be working on the southbound side to build the new southbound lanes and ramps. 

Nearby the northbound side of the freeway will have new right-hand on- and off-ramps at Sheffield Drive.

For more information on the project go to:

Caltrans says:

“Consistent with CDC guidance to prevent community spread of COVID-19, Caltrans is proceeding with encampment cleanups if there is an immediate safety concern or threat to critical infrastructure. We will continue to work with cities and other partners to move people into safer situations as available.In addressing encampment cleanups, Caltrans collaborates with cities, counties and local social services providers that connect people experiencing homelessness with available housing and health services. When people experiencing homelessness receive local services, they are less likely to return to encampments on the state’s right-of-way.”

Article Topic Follows: Environment & Energy

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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