Police post eviction notice at homeless camp near Valley of the Moon Park

Police have ordered residents of a sprawling tent camp near Valley of the Moon Park to pack up and leave following three complaints over the past two weeks.

The posting Wednesday of the camp gives the occupants until Sept. 22 to move out. The site is one of the area's larger unauthorized camps, not far from the trail where two people were killed last month and where Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley plan to meet with safety-concerned residents Thursday.

Police officer Sally Jones said the camp is one of many tucked in the woods near the popular park. She said police weren't cracking down in the area because of the Thursday gathering, called in response to a letter from residents pleading for more police patrols on the trail system. The campsite was simply on the list to visit, Jones said.

This week, a rooster and a hen walked around the campsite, where three tents were set up underneath blue tarps. Several bicycles laid amid wheels and fenders. Among the items scattered across the ground were cleaning products, a suitcase, high heels, a black purse, a children's book, a toolbox and swim trunks. There were piles of trash. A small basketball hoop was attached to a tree trunk.

Renee Oistad, an Anchorage Police Department spokesperson, said officers ran the bikes' serial numbers and none of them had been reported stolen. She said she only knew of two people living at the camp.

On Wednesday, a young woman at the camp said she couldn't talk and had to run an errand. She called to her boyfriend who said he wasn't interested in talking either. Another man at the camp said he was just there visiting a friend.

"It's a disaster back here," he said of the mess.

Jones, an officer with Anchorage's Community Action Policing Team, said she always sees at least one tent when she walks the Chester Creek Trail from C Street to the west. It's also common to see bicycle parts, she said.

"If you walk through any camp, I would say there's an 80 percent chance you're going to run into bike parts," she said.

But without serial numbers, there's no way to know to whom they belong.

Patrolling the campsites can be a frustrating task. She said people often simply pick up and move to another wooded area. By the end of August, police had posted eviction notices at more than 830 camps across the city.

Victor Smart, 60, a resident of the Valley of the Moon neighborhood for 15 years, said he has noticed more petty theft in the area and more trouble on the trails. He and his wife recently spotted someone pulling a dolly with six bicycles and he called 911, he said.

Now, when he hears tourists talking about the city's trail system, he said, "I think to myself, 'Be careful, guys.' "

Smart was one of dozens of residents who signed a letter sent to Berkowitz last week about the neighborhood's rising crime. The letter called for an increase in foot and bike police patrols on the trails.

Berkowitz announced Thursday's gathering in response to the letter. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the large pavilion in the Valley of the Moon Park.