Massive waste closes river trail, forces out homeless – Orange County Register

Some are skeptical about the reasoning, but County of Orange officials say a chunk of the Santa Ana River Trail will be closed for up to three months to restore the environment and protect the flood channel.

The sticky issue is that the four-mile stretch includes an area in Anaheim that homeless advocates contend is protected by the courts for homeless people.

With 700 to 1,000 homeless living along the trail and a Jan. 22 clearing date, expect court battles.

Yet a recent visit along the trail as well as county reports suggests the urgent call for environmental restoration is a solid one.

Orange County Flood Control District Chief Engineer Khalid Bazmi said this week, “Our concerns over the buildup of various types of debris and waste in the area have intensified, as has the need to inspect flood control facilities in the area and perform necessary maintenance and repairs.”

Bazmi continued, “The work cannot be delayed any further without potentially jeopardizing the flood control, water conservation and water quality mission.”

But advocates who care for homeless people contend governmental priorities are skewed. Dwight Smith heads up Orange County Catholic Worker’s Isaiah House and says the effort to force people off the river trail is wrong for many reasons.

“We’re meeting with lawyers,” Smith said Tuesday, “on calling the county to task and say, ‘Listen, how are you going to prevent these people from poring into cities when they aren’t in their element and don’t know what to do?’

“They can’t displace people from public land without giving them a place to go.”

Officials point out they are responsible for “protecting Orange County from the threat of floods by designing and constructing…

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