Fort Collins concerned about needles, drugs in homeless encampments

Ft. Collins encourages canceling river cleanups

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The owner of a Fort Collins rafting company says city officials encouraged him to cancel his 19th annual river cleanup because of dangerous debris left behind at homeless encampments, including needles, human waste and drugs. 

The problem is so serious that last fall, the City of Fort Collins changed its protocol and begin hiring third-party contractor to clean up the areas wearing hazmat suits, officials told Denver7.

Brad Modesitt, the owner of Mt. Whitewater and Paddler's Pub says more than 200 people showed up for his Red River cleanup last year. But this year, he says the city encouraged him to cancel it.

“They really made it sound like they didn't want us to do it, and then started saying there would be a lot of hoops to jump through, if at all,” said Modesitt. 

It was a similar story at first for O’Dell Brewing Company’s River cleanup planned this Sunday. 

“They came to us this year and said they weren’t sure if we would be able to do the river cleanup,” said Karla Baird, with O’Dell’s Brewing Company, who said they eventually worked out an agreement with the city that included training a crew, signing waivers and requiring all volunteers to watch a city safety video.

John Stokes, the Director of Fort Collins Natural Areas, said the goal is not to discourage river cleanup, but to make sure volunteers are safe. 

“There can be more dangerous substances now, including drugs or human waste or needles,” said Stokes. “So we don’t want to have volunteers do something we’re not even asking our own employees to do.”

Stokes said the tipping point happened last year, when city cleanup crews started finding Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, along the river banks.

“It’s crushed my soul. It’s made me wonder what’s happening in our world,” said Modesitt, who said the news restrictions (including not allowing children under 13-years-old to participate in the cleanup efforts) and the liability are too much. He canceled his 19th annual cleanup in May.

“I’ll figure out a way to clean up something and make it better,” he said. “This problem isn’t going to go away, and so we have to make it better somehow.”

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