Cost to clean up homeless encampments in Glenwood Springs totals $200K |

Cost to clean up homeless encampments in Glenwood Springs totals $200K

A pile of trash located in the homeless camp on the hillside behind Walmart in south Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The cost to clean up the 80 homeless encampments within Glenwood Springs would cost $200,000.

That’s according to Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith, who discussed ways to address a number of problems related to homelessness in and surrounding Glenwood Springs during the April 7 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

“That’s just in Glenwood Springs; then you have all the properties adjacent to that. Every time we clean up, they move, then a couple months later they move back in. It’s a moving target that constantly needs to be addressed,” Smith said of the clean-up costs.

Commissioner Laura Speck described the trash left behind from encampments as, “beyond a health hazard.”

Speck said she’s been working with Garfield County Environmental Health Manager Josh Williams to declare the area an environmental hazard, which would allow clean-up efforts to begin.

Trash fills a ravine on the hillside behind Walmart where a longtime homeless camp has existed.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Speck said two fires were recently reported in the area, which is located near Walmart by Palmer Avenue.

Smith said the problem of cleaning up homeless encampments and keeping them clean is a two-edged sword.

“We can annex in properties that then become public property, but then it becomes public land and you have some limitations on what you can do as far as homeless encampments go,” Smith said.

“We can put in rules for prohibiting camping in certain parkland areas, but a lot of cities have been challenged on some of those because there’s a Constitutional right to rest in public areas that you can’t really take away from people.”

Smith said the easier solution would be to engage a property owner, who can then report people for trespassing as a preventative measure.

“In this situation, with some of these properties on Lookout Mountain that are long abandoned encampments that have tons of debris in there in unincorporated Garfield County, the push is really to get the county to commit to a cleanup effort then work with a private property owner to buy the property,” Smith said.

At that point, Smith said the city would work to create a recreation easement for future trails.

“That gives us the ability to get in, clean up the property, while still maintaining the right of the property owner to trespass and still keep people off the property.”

Smith lamented how daunting and unsolvable the homelessness problem has become.

“You can address the symptoms, but the problems, the mental health social system, is kind of broken in our country,” Smith said.

Smith said the city is planning a city clean-up day for April 30, where city employees will organize teams designated to pick trash up at several locations.

“Our streets superintendent is going to organize some large three or four dumpsters to be dropped off at the community center,” Smith said.

The city then is planning a May Day call to the community where residents will be asked to go out and clean up public spaces within the city.

“We’re working on these things to get people out and get more aware. It creates buy-in,” Smith said.“One of our greatest tools is creating that buy-in and that sense of pride that comes with it.”

Garfield County commissioners also briefly addressed the issue during their Monday meeting when a resident of the area said the illegal camping continues above her house.

The commissioners are awaiting a report from Public Health’s Williams, expected during the April 19 meeting. For its part, the county will then need to take bids for the clean-up work on private property that’s located outside city limits.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he has been in touch with the property owner, who he said has given permission to have the Sheriff’s Office remove anyone who is trespassing.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or

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