BANGOR – For the past few years, Bangor has been plagued by homeless encampments which, police say, breed health concerns and violence.
“But there’s also the trash and debris, abandoned camping gear and donations of clothing,” Bangor police Sgt. Wade Betters said Wednesday.
Recently, new campsites popped up along the railroad tracks on the Bangor waterfront from Dunnett’s Appliance and Mattress to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. That property is owned by Pan Am Railways.
According to Betters, Pan Am Railways’ police officers routinely move the campers off the railroad property but the garbage is left behind.
Trash is strewn all along the banking along the Penobscot River. Clothes hanging on the trees along with a sleeping bag can be seen from the railroad tracks. Plus, numerous tents were left behind, evidence of quick departures from transient campers. It’s unclear whether anybody’s still living along the river.
The biggest complaint the city has is that when these people are moved along, the railroad will not clean up the trash left behind.
“And there’s just random campsites. And trash rotting into the ground. Some places there are dead animals. And it’s right beside the river,” Betters said.
During a walk-through Wednesday morning, Betters was accompanied by the city’s community services manager. They walked the half-mile stretch of railroad track as they checked the well-being of those calling the banks of the river home. It wasn’t Rindy Fogler’s first journey through the campsites.
“My first reaction when I was new to it was I could not believe the level of filth,” Fogler said.
Fogler said people wanting to donate sleeping bags and tents to the homeless might be doing the transients a disservice.
“What we need is help with the $30 dollars to get someone an ID. Or we need the money that’s being spent on these tents to be used on security deposits towards apartments,” Fogler said.
While there was plenty of evidence of people camping between the railroad tracks and the Penobscot River, there were no sightings of any of those people Wednesday.
One person who uses the railroad tracks as a short cut says he’s concerned about his safety when he walks through the encampments.
“I carry something in my backpack for protection. I mean, it’s … it’s nerve-wracking because of certain stories about what’s happened down here before. I’m just ready for anything,” Steven Hadder said.
A message was left for a Pan Am Railways spokesperson, but as of early Wednesday evening, there had been no comment from anyone associated with the railroad.
Betters said all the city wants is for the railroad officials to act responsibly.
“This is a big nationwide problem. It’s not just Bangor. We just need the railroad to be a little better neighbor than they are. For them to indicate to us that, you know, that it doesn’t really slow the trains down. And they didn’t put the trash there so they’re not really concerned about it. I just think that’s an unacceptable answer,” he said.