By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – It is one of Colorado’s treasures for recreation, but the north fork of the South Platte River in Denver and Adams County has now become an intersection of outdoor recreation and abject poverty, dotted with homeless camps.

A view from Drone4 of one of the homeless camps (credit: CBS)

“I’m part of one. We’re trying to survive,” a man with a t-shirt that read “Homeless” yelled at CBS4’s Rick Sallinger and his photojournalist, Rob McClure.

But any welcome they feel there may be getting worn out. CBS4 received complaints that the area is now resembling a trash dump. The camps are right along the South Platte River bike path where cyclists daily pass the site filled with tents, trash and shopping carts.

(credit: CBS)

Up the river there are more there are more. Sallinger met a camper whose tent was inside a closed off area.

“They said, ‘Pack yourself and get out of here.’ And I’m like, ‘Where am I supposed to go?” a man said.

(credit: CBS)

Sallinger asked him, why not the Salvation Army shelter located right nearby.

“I’m an alcoholic but I don’t cause problems. Those guys are fighting in there,” he replied.

(credit: CBS)

Denver park rangers patrol the bike way daily. It is not allowed to camp overnight there. They say the problem is growing. If they spot a tent, those by it are told to move. If no one is there they leave a 24-hour notice. A Denver Parks and Recreation spokesperson told CBS4 no camping is allowed overnight in any Denver parks or greenways. The only place it is allowed is the Chief Hosa Campground in the foothills with a permit.

A park ranger is interviewed by CBS4’s Rick Sallinger. (credit: CBS)

One homeless man said he was pleased with how he was treated,

“They treated me with respect and didn’t look down on me because I’m homeless at the present time,” he said with his back to the camera.

(credit: CBS)

With no home to live in, being close to nature is valued and something they are fighting not to lose.

One camper picked up a rock and threw it a CBS4 photographer, but missed. That angry man living in a tent may have been fearful the presence of a camera could lead to the end of his home on the river bank.

See Drone4 video captured for this report in the video clip below:

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.


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