Local

Part of Santa Ana River trail reopens for recreation after homeless cleared out

The fate of homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River in Orange County may come down to whether a federal judge decides there are alternative places in the county for homeless people to sleep.
The fate of homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River in Orange County may come down to whether a federal judge decides there are alternative places in the county for homeless people to sleep.
Jill Replogle/KPCC

A portion of the Santa Ana river trail near Angel Stadium is open again to joggers and cyclists.

The stretch was reopened Saturday after it was closed to the public for cleanup at the end of January. Orange County officials cleared a large encampment in the area in February, where hundreds of people were living. 

Orange County sheriff's deputies on Monday began going tent to tent along the Santa Ana River telling people the area will be closed and they need to move.
Orange County sheriff's deputies on Monday began going tent to tent along the Santa Ana River telling people the area will be closed and they need to move.
Jill Replogle/KPCC

The encampment had become a point of debate for the county. Advocates urged local officials not to force the homeless campers out without a plan to house them — nearly 700 people were temporarily put up in motels after it was cleared. But it was located near several residential neighborhoods and some complained that it was a threat to public health. 

The portion of the trail was expected to be closed for up to three months for a public works environmental remediation project. But "significant progress" allowed to the trail to open before that, according a press release issued Friday afternoon.

While some of that work is still ongoing, Orange County officials say tons of debris — including hazardous waste and hypodermic needles — were removed between Jan. 22 and March 3.

"The County appreciates trail users’ patience during the efforts to complete the necessary environmental remediation and restore one of Orange County’s primary regional bicycle corridors," the release stated.

The area from Memory Lane in Santa Ana to Taft Avenue in Orange has now reopened to the public. The Orange County Sheriff's Department will patrol the area during operating hours, which run from 7 a.m to 9 p.m. through Oct. 31.

This story has been updated.