City of Olympia Aug. 20th press release about clearing 4th Ave Bridge camp

4th Ave Bridge Encampment to be Cleared
On Tuesday, Aug. 20, the City of Olympia notified campers under the 4th Avenue Bridge that the City would clean up the encampment on Wednesday, Sept. 11, and camping would no longer happen under the bridge.

The City has been consistent and open with its concerns about the safety and public health risks posed by the unsanctioned camping in that area. The Department of Ecology has warned of the risk of water contamination from human waste.Testing had shown fecal coliform bacteria in the waters nearby. The City has worried about damage being done to the bridge infrastructure by campers digging out the bridge footings, and staff have been monitoring the status of utilities (such a gas pipeline) that run under the bridge. 

In the short-term, City staff took steps to mitigate those concerns by shrinking the footprint of the encampment, fencing off critical areas, providing portable toilets and garbage containers, and receiving a promise from campers that there would be no fires set under the bridge. The City also was very clear with the campers all along that ultimately the camp would be removed.

As weeks went by, the encampment grew beyond the original footprint. In June, the City did a clean up of the areas, reset the footprint and placed rocks around a fragile storm pond to prevent camping there. Recently, the Fire Department responded to a tent fire under the bridge. While there, crews removed about a dozen propane tanks stored next to a burnt out tent. Staff have also continued to find digging at the bridge footing. Police and Fire have responded numerous time to activities and concerns created in the unmanaged camp.

As part of the notification process, staff gave campers information on shelters and other resources.The City believes the three-weeks notice gives the campers enough time to move their belongings from under the bridge before the scheduled clean up happens. The City’s Familiar Faces and Crisis Response Unit teams have been and will continue to engage with the bridge campers and to partner with other social service providers to connect the campers to services.
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