Crews clear, seal cave homeless use near Glenwood Springs

A Union Pacific truck hauls out garbage bags full of trash from a homeless camp inside a cave just east of Glenwood Springs near the railroad tracks.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

For several days, crews in hazmat suits have been cleaning out an encampment in a cave east of Glenwood Springs on the Union Pacific Railroad line.

The clean-up has nothing to do with COVID-19 or other communicable diseases.

“This had nothing to do with any kind of infections disease or viruses,” said Glenwood Springs Police Department Lt. John Hassell.

The crews wore protective gear to keep themselves protected as they cleaned out a place many homeless have used as a shelter for years.

The cave, which sits east of Glenwood Springs on Union Pacific property, has been a campsite for homeless persons for years, but the railroad decided to seal it off this week.

“In recent weeks, those living in the area have made it impossible for our employees to safely do their work,” Union Pacific spokesperson Kristen South said in a statement.

“For example, human feces have been left on equipment that must be touched. Employees must be able to do their work, so we can safely and efficiently serve our customers,” South said.

The cave sits about 20 feet from the railroad tracks, and anyone accessing the cave is trespassing on Union Pacific land.

People have also been using a culvert underneath the tracks, South said.

The cave entrance and the culvert are being sealed, and the railroad is taking steps to prevent the area from being used as an illegal shelter.

Hassell said that some people who were staying in the cave were asked to remove their things.

The number of people camping there has been increasing in recent years, according to an employee at the train station.

“We’ve been dealing with transients here, and we have seen a slow and steady uptick,” said Eric Pederson, who works for AMTRAK at the Glenwood Springs station.

Hassell added that the police department’s practice is to provide homeless persons with information on contacting local charities.

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