▶️ SAR volunteers clean up abandoned homeless camps along Deschutes River

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By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Deschutes County Search and Rescue volunteers cleaned up abandoned transient campsites along the Deschutes River over the weekend.

The steep canyon near the Riverhouse Convention Center served as a training opportunity for volunteers to practice rope rescues.

An escaped campfire last summer and high water this winter forced transients to abandon their campsites downstream of the North Canal Dam.

They left behind piles of garbage in a difficult to access area.

“Camping equipment, kitchen stuff, rotting food, hypodermic needles, clothes, shoes. Just tons and tons of trash rotted from sitting down here all winter,” said Neil Marchington, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

SAR decided to help remove the trash via a rope system with litters that normally carry injured people.

They erected a complex rope and pulley system anchored to juniper trees that cantilevered out over the cliff.

A device called a “vortex” kept the rope clear of sharp rocks.

“That will involve setting up systems to haul the garbage up and being a litter attendant,” said Kamilla Farkas, Search & Rescue Lead. “Right now, there’s no live load but there could be, so this is a good training.”

Volunteers who pulled more than 2,000 pounds of garbage out of the canyon over two days say the cleanup couldn’t happen soon enough.

“There was literally trash floating down the river where people are swimming and kayaking. Bags with hypodermic needles floating across the Deschutes River here in Bend,” Marchington said. “That’s something we don’t want to have endangering our kids and our families.”

The cleanup served as one of three monthly trainings that Deschutes County Search & Rescue volunteers undergo year-round.

Such trainings sharpen their skills for when somebody needs to be rescued from difficult to reach areas.

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