Safety threatened by river squatters

As sympathetic as we may be to the plight of poor people camped along the Carson River, the fact is many people are afraid to enjoy the river because they don't feel safe.

For much of Carson City's history, in fact, the banks of the river have been the refuge of homeless, down-and-out folks who feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Bureau of Land Management rangers keep the public lands clear of squatters, but there is only so much Carson City sheriff's deputies can do on private lands.

That's why the Carson River Advisory Committee has taken an interest in cleaning up the area. Deputies can cite people for trespassing, but the citation doesn't stick unless the property owner shows up in court.

They're not talking about short-term campers. The problem is the people who have moved in, staked out their territory and - in some cases - appear ready to defend it.

Not only do anglers, hikers and sight-seers feel uncomfortable the deeper they go into Brunswick Canyon, there exists the real possibility of unsanitary conditions and fire damage.

Years ago, the homeless in Carson City may have had nowhere else to go. But today Friends in Service Helping and the Focus House provide alternatives to the truly needy. Their resources may sometimes be stretched beyond capacity, but anyone who is deserving of the community's help will be able to get assistance.

Both organizations do, however, screen their clients for criminal backgrounds and allow no drugs or alcohol.

The likelihood, then, is the transients who can't get into Focus House - the criminals and the drug-abusers - will find their way to the Carson River.

If even sheriff's deputies are wary of venturing there, then the Carson River Advisory Committee is justified in wanting to clean it up. The river should be an asset to the community, not a place to avoid.

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