By Karen Brainard
Bureaucratic hurdles have stalled efforts by the Ramona sheriff's station to clean up the Santa Maria Creek bottom, even as it continues to arrest criminals living and hoarding items among the bed's vegetation.
Lt. Hank Turner of the Ramona station updated the Ramona Community Planning Group, a creek cleanup advocate, on the project during the planners' Aug. 7 meeting.
Turner said the sheriff's station is having issues with some of those living in the creek bed where "there is an immense amount of trash and debris, garbage, junk, whatever you want to call it. Basically hoarder, pack-rat type of things down there."
On July 10 deputies arrested a man who was living there and basically trafficking stolen property, said Turner.
"Things would be stolen from residences in the downtown area, they would bring them to him, he would trade them for drugs," said the lieutenant. The man was arrested for possession of stolen property and a couple of burglaries, he added.
Among stolen items recovered were clothing, a bicycle, a lap top, a tablet computer, and sunglasses.
According to Turner, the creek bed is the continual prime issue that his station has identified in the downtown area.
However, government environmental groups are concerned about endangered species in the creek bed, he noted.
"There are groups in the government that do not want us to even go down there," said Turner. He said his department points out that there are people who on a regular basis do more damage to the habitat than the sheriff's department ever would.
Turner said he has been in contact with county Supervisor Dianne Jacob's office to receive help on obtaining approval from the government agencies and avoid any possibility of fines.
"We just need to get approval to allow us to go in there," he said.
Another hurdle in the deputies' cleanup efforts is that some parts of the creek bed are on private property and the county will not let them proceed because of liability, said Turner.
"We'll definitely get it done," he said, adding that it may take a while.
The lieutenant said volunteers in the community have offered to help.