Meeting aims to ‘take back’ riverfront
Citizens meet with outreach committee to discuss homeless population
Before Friday, Linde Marshall hadn’t been back to the Colorado Riverfront Trail since an incident that scared her months ago.
In early spring, she was pregnant and walking along the trail next to her 3-year-old daughter, who was on a scooter. Suddenly the small family found themselves in the middle of a dispute between folks, possibly homeless people who camp by the Colorado River. The riverside dwellers were fighting on the path over the heads of Marshall and her daughter.
“This is the first time I’ve been back,” she said during a “take back the riverfront” gathering at the Blue Heron section of the trail. “I’m getting back on the horse.”
On Friday, Marshall was joined by a group of about a dozen others, some of whom said they, too, no longer felt safe using the community path.
In an effort to provide outreach for the homeless, Julie Mamo, director of Grand Valley Peace and Justice, also attended the event. She explained that some people who camp by the river do so because it’s a safer and more viable option for them than being out in the open.
“These people need a place to go, too,” she said. “We don’t want them in our parks, we don’t want them on our trails. Where are they going to go?
“Honestly, I think we all want the same thing,” Mamo said about all community members feeling safe.
Grand Junction City Council members are slated to talk about possible solutions to what appears to be a budding issue of conflicts between families and squatters in local parks and public spaces.
Initial ideas include bolstering a city ordinance to ban alcohol consumption in some parks, except for special events.
Currently, only 3.2-percent alcohol is allowed in city parks.
Other ideas being considered include offering an area or areas where homeless people can camp and access some services, provided some rules are kept.
Anyone can be in public spaces, such as city parks and trails, during open hours. Also, homeless people who camp along the Colorado River and Gunnison River often do so on undeeded land, meaning no one owns the property.
Reports of murders and other violence that occurs on or near homeless camps near the river has kept families away, some people said at the event.
Angie Meuret said her family enjoys the riverfront trail near the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, but that has its limitations.
After a year of high river water that receded, the area is more open and revealed a number of campsites near the trail.
“We won’t go west of the amphitheater or south toward the river. No way,” Meuret said. “You could see what was there. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh. How long have those people lived there?’ ”