Camping can be free in some parts of the Deschutes National Forest, but some campers are illegally taking advantage of that by staying longer than allowed, officials said Friday.
On Forest Road 461, camping is free for up to two weeks. If campers stay longer than those two weeks, they are considered forest residents by the Deschutes National Forest Service.
The road is located just west of Bend, off Skyliners Road. It's mostly used for campers but also has biking and running trails.
When campers stay too long, trash and vehicles are sometimes left behind. Currently, there is an abandoned minivan at one of the campsites.
The Forest Service said it is working with local law enforcement agencies to track down the owner of that vehicle, but if they can’t find them, the responsibility -- and cost -- falls on the taxpayers.
“If we can’t find the owner of those vehicles through law enforcement, then it’s on the taxpayers to get the resources to remove those vehicles,” Forest Service spokeswoman Kassidy Kern said. “That’s the worst-case scenario.”
According to Kern, the problem is not just a Forest Service issue.
“From our perspective, this is really a community issue,” Kern said. “This is something that is not just the Forest Service’s issue. We are the recipient of this issue, but this is compounded by some problems that involve home prices, mental health issues. A lot of different things are kind of playing into how this is happening on the national forest.”