Park rangers to move transient campsite from MKT trail

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COLUMBIA - The city's parks and recreation department put up a sign on the MKT trail warning campers to remove their belongings from a portion of the trail.

The sign is displayed just south of at the Providence Road entrance of the trail, and warns the campers they have two weeks to gather their belongings and leave the area. After two weeks, the city will confiscate and dispose of any remaining belongings at the site, according to park services manager Gabe Huffington.

Camping out in public areas such as parks and trails without permission from the city is considered trespassing.

Huffington said even though homeless individuals do set up camps along trails in town, they usually understand they can't camp in public spaces and typically move on after the two week notice.

"Our park rangers will go out there, take a look, and talk to those individuals to make sure they get the help they need and to find a shelter in town," Huffington said.

Once they move, Huffington said they will either set up camp in another part of town that may not get noticed, or they will seek help from the many homeless outreach organizations in town.

The sign includes a number for transient individuals to contact to get assistance from the Columbia Department of Public Health and Human Services.

"The department is going to help them out in any way they can," Huffington said. Anytime we have this kind this incident they are going to work with them in terms of helping them find a shelter or helping them find a place to live."

Even though the camps may surprise trail-goers, Huffington said the individuals camping there are doing it out of necessity and people shouldn't be alarmed.

Transient individuals seeking assistance with temporary shelter or with locating family members can contact Columbia's Department of Public Health and Human Services at (573) 817-6430.