Public closure of West Eugene Wetlands extended

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EUGENE, Ore. - The West Eugene Wetlands remain closed to public entry as crews continue to clean up tens of thousands of pounds of garbage left there by illegal campers.

Contractors are also working to restore habitat and thin vegetation that provided places for illegal camps to set up and hide. The work will also reduce the fire danger.

The effort started in July with notification to campers to clear out. Campers were also told how to claim any personal property left behind and later seized by crews.

Land managers expected to re-open the area to day use in mid-August. Camping would remain illegal.

Crews have removed 14 tons of garbage since the illegal camps were closed, and workers are still unearthing more trash as they go.

So far, 52 campsites have been dismantled.

Public access remains restricted until at least September 13.

The work is part of a plan set out by the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 1,300 of the 3,000 acres in the West Eugene Wetlands.

BLM manages the area both to protect threatened and endangered species and for human recreation, but not camping. BLM has managed land in the West Eugene Wetlands since the 1990s as part of an agreement with the City of Eugene.

In recent years, illegal camps and trails have taken hold in the wetlands, causing ecological damage, BLM reports. Human waste and other garbage, like needles, are a hazard to both human and environmental help.

BLM also reports cases of people being harassed by illegal campers have been on the rise in the last 6 months. Some education groups no longer feel safe taking students out to the wetlands, according to a BLM report.

And fire remains a danger: campfire are illegal, but still happen. In 2008, investigators suspected illegal fires or even arson in a series of fires in the area.