Bowling Green Parks & Recreation Department staff cleaned out an apparent homeless camp and an array of litter that accumulated near a city Greenways path behind Walmart on Morgantown Road after nearby residents raised concerns.
The camp was off a Greenways path that cuts behind The Villas at Stonehenge and runs alongside Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Nearby residents said the path was once well-used and attractive, but people had started to avoid it out of caution because of the large amount of trash.
However, the apparent camp has now been gutted and the amount of litter around the path has greatly decreased.
Shortly after the Bowling Green Daily News received comments from Mayor Todd Alcott about the situation, parks department workers arrived and cleaned the area late last week.
Parks department Director Brent Belcher said the city learned about the residents’ concerns and wanted to quickly solve this situation.
“Everybody is finally getting back outside and enjoying our parks,” Belcher said. “We want the upmost care for all of our properties. The value and goal of our park spaces is an improved quality of life. We do care about this, and we wanted to respond in a timely manner.”
When asked for comments late last week, Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott said that was the first he had heard about the situation.
“I see this as an isolated issue that’s popped up in other areas in Bowling Green,” Alcott said. “It’s a personal goal of mine to try and develop a beneficial way for the city to handle homelessness. I don’t think you are going to stop homelessness, but what is Bowling Green going to do to handle this issue differently from other cities?
“I don’t want to just push this away,” Alcott said. “I honestly want to help those who want to help themselves. I’m actively listening and wanting to help.”
Alcott said he has been trying to find ways to increase affordable housing in the city, and other ideas to improve housing are being considered as well.
Neighborhood resident Renee Hill said several people who live nearby had noticed the trash and the increase of homeless people in the area.
“They don’t feel safe anymore,” Hill said of other residents. “I would like the area to be beautified, and I’d like it to be cleaner and safer for our community.”
Hill has lived near the Greenway for more than a decade and said the problems started to occur within the past two years when homeless people started to appear in the small woodland area behind Walmart.
Accompanying the litter were a few dozen shopping carts from Walmart and graffiti sprayed throughout the trail. While the graffiti still exists, the carts and litter have vanished.
The situation had left Hill and other residents feeling helpless as they wanted to clean up the litter as much as possible, but they also didn’t want to throw away any possible personal belongings.
“I don’t have anything against homeless people,” Hill said. “Some of them prefer to be homeless. I just want to see this area kept in better shape. I also would like to secure something for the kids who live here as well like a basketball goal or a small playground.”
Hill said that many children live close to the trail.
Other residents such as handyman Wayne Jent said he has attempted to clean up the area himself previously.
Jent is retired and can regularly be found cleaning up litter in the neighborhood.
“That’s where they hang out at night,” Jent said of the camp. “It’s out of everybody’s way so it’s not necessarily a terrible place for them. I hate to go in there and clean up their mess because some of that’s their stuff. But I try to clean up everything I can.”
Jent and Hill live close to each other at the top of the hill behind Walmart.
The trail begins at the peak and then descends down near SKYCTC, where the homeless camp was formerly located.
“We have a pretty good community going right now,” Jent told the Daily News last week. “I like this area. It’s been really pretty and nice. I just hate to see it like this.”
Jent was pleased to find out Monday that the city took care of the situation.
“It’s just fabulous that they got out there and immediately responded,” Jent said. “They did their job excellently. It makes me feel good to hear this.”
Salvation Army Director of Social Services Heather Ryan said camps like this often pop up during warmer months around abandoned barns and under the walking bridge off Louisville Road.
“We just don’t see a whole lot of homeless people check in during the warmer months,” Ryan said. “I think this is a combination of many homeless people coming to Bowling Green recently for job opportunities, and the COVID-19 pandemic made that transitional phase a lot more difficult.”
Ryan said the Salvation Army and other agencies are available to assist the homeless community in Bowling Green however they can.
Bowling Green’s chapter of the Salvation Army is at 400 W Main Ave. The chapter can also be reached at 270-843-3485 for inquiries concerning homelessness around the city.
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.