Long-term campers creating problems in Provo Canyon

PROVO – Long-term campers in Provo Canyon are overstaying their welcome and trashing the campgrounds. That’s why the Utah County Sheriff’s Office is proposing camping restrictions on county property.

Lt. Yvette Rice showed Fox 13 one of many abandoned transient camps in Provo Canyon just steps away from a walking trail.

“You can smell mildew," Rice said. "You can smell urine.”

Rice says conditions have a negative environmental impact.

“We look around for needles, paraphernalia, anything specifically that can hurt the public," Rice said.

But their hands are tied.

“Currently, we do not have any kind of a county ordinance that helps us make people move on if you will,” Rice said.

Right now, people are allowed to camp on Utah County property for 14 days, but Rice says it’s hard to keep track of.

They’re asking county commissioners to sign off on an ordinance that would provide limitations on how long people can camp on county property, and require people to clean up after themselves.

“We understand that there are people that are down on their luck,” Rice said.

Fox 13 News met Drew, who lives up Provo Canyon.

“I got tired of Utah County and Salt Lake," he said.

Deputies pulled Drew over after he nearly crashed his bicycle in the canyon. He says he panhandles to get money for drugs.

“I have no moral compass lately," he said. "I just don't know what I want to do in life.”

Rice says with Operation Rio Grande underway, several homeless people like Drew have been pushed out and end up in Utah County.

“Whatever resources we have, we try to give to people, but some of what we're encountering is a group of people who literally are choosing to live outside the confines of society," Rice said.

Her concern is that long-term campers may steer people away from enjoying the canyon.

“We have beautiful recreation areas, Canyon areas, the lake, we want people to come to use those resources," Rice said. "But we've gotta figure out what is a reasonable amount of time so that everybody can share in that ability.”

No decisions have been made just yet. The Utah County Sheriff's Office says they’ll continue to work with commissioners to come up with an ordinance.