The last day that campers will be allowed under the Reserve Street Bridge will officially be January 25, according to Montana Department of Transportation District Administrator Bob Vosen.

KGVO spoke to Vosen following the press conference that occurred ion Thursday to introduce the new authorized camp at Concrete Way and Clark Fork Lane not far from the Super Walmart off Mullan Road.

Vosen said the Reserve Street homeless camp has been a source of pollution as well as numerous fires over the years.

“We've had numerous fires going back three, four or five years at least, if not longer,” said Vosen. “We've had a few fires actually under the bridge. Those fires are troublesome to us, as well as to the neighborhood. That's a difficult location for the first responders to get to for fire and police to respond to when they're needed in the area as well.”

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Vosen said the area is in a floodplain, which is another complication when campers are added.

“It's in a floodplain, and it's led to unsanitary conditions, and so as a landowner, we have a responsibility to police our land and make sure that we aren’t having those conditions in the waterways of the state of Montana as well,” he said.

Vosen said the MDT has been a partner in the quest to provide a safe place for homeless persons away from the river.

“As the mayor and the county commissioners stated yesterday, it's been a partnership working together, trying to figure out how to come up with an acceptable solution,” he said. “I've been saying for years as a community issue that has needed a community solution and I’m happy to say that we seem to be able to move forward and get the camp located to a safe place, a place that is better for everyone involved.”

Vosen provided a firm date for the official closure of the Reserve Street camp, January 25.

A massive fence has been installed around the area over the past few months with several openings deliberately available for campers, but that will change on January 25.

“The first date to know is that the 18th,” he said.  “Next Tuesday is when the new site opens, when it becomes available, and one week later is the day that MDT will be hanging gates and doing the fence repair work and we’ll be working with the local law enforcement to make sure that the trespass ordinance is being adhered to.”

Vosen said there will be security checks under the bridge to enforce the closure of the area, and those campers will be moved to the new facility just a few blocks away.

He said the area will be allowed to return to a natural flood plain as the river passes under the Reserve Street Bridge.

 

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