WILKES-BARRE — By this weekend, the last homeless campsite should be cleared from the woods in the Kirby Park Natural Area along the Susquehanna River.
That’s a relief to Donald “Rich” Hosey, who brought the campsites and alleged illegal activities in the public park to the city’s attention last month at a council meeting.
The police have stepped up patrols in the natural area and cleared other campsites since the beginning of the month and in time for the RiverFest 2014 that showcases the riverfront parks from today through Sunday.
Hosey, of Kingston, and a member of the Susquehanna River Watch has been working to make Nesbitt Park and the natural area safer and more accessible for the public by clearing the numerous trails and ridding the park of the illegal campers.
“They’ve responded. We’ve worked in here for years and got no response at all,” Hosey said Thursday.
He planned to resume cleaning up the garbage left behind at abandoned campsites and expected to have others lending hands.
Safety was an issue and kept people from helping him in the wooded area on the other side of the levee from the grass playing fields of Kirby Park.
“We finally got to the positive part of it,” he said.
The 65-acre area purposely devolved into a natural state after the flooding of 1936 and the construction of a levee system along the river.
The earthen wall split the park created on land donated in 1921 by Fred Morgan Kirby, one of the founders of Woolworth five-and-dime-store chain.
Preeminent landscape architects the Olmsted brothers designed the park with meadows, footpaths, a reflecting pool, bandstand and gazebo. The Olmsted family’s work included New York City’s Central Park and numerous public park systems throughout the country.
Brush and overgrowth choke the pathways that veer off a paved roadway through the area. The coverage also concealed the campsites, but Hosey and others who are familiar with the area easily found them.
He said it appears that the city will have an officer on a motorcycle patrol the area, and the Department of Public Works will open up the roadway that’s blocked by a fallen tree.
“What we’ve been asking for is a presence and supervision, and they’ve finally responded,” Hosey said.
City spokeswoman Liza Prokop said police located a campsite Wednesday afternoon, but the occupants were not found. Police left a 48-hour notice on the tent to remove it and the property from the area, she said.
“They will follow-up on this over the weekend to determine if the site has been abandoned before removing the property, ” she said.
Prokop added the city relies on the public for assistance.
“If there are campsites out of the officers vantage point of view, it can make it difficult to spot them in overgrown areas unless a complaint is received,” she said.