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Fistful of Trouble: The tickets came thick and fast last Friday as the police papered Camp Paradise.

Nüz

Another Weekend in Paradise

Aug. 3, 8:30am. In the future, wily etymologists will discover that the term environy was birthed in Santa Cruz in the wake of this city's decision to charge Camp Paradise founder Larry "Hot Dog" Templeton with four crimes against the environment.

Readers may remember (Nüz, July 11) that Templeton has spearheaded the cleanup of a formerly trashed and drug-infested stretch of the San Lorenzo River bank--a job, according to estimates by campers, that would have cost $250,000 had the city paid for it.

In restoring this riparian corridor, Templeton and his fellow campers created a safe drug- and alcohol-free community--an achievement that has apparently embarrassed the Santa Cruz City Council, which says it's sympathetic toward the homeless yet is evidently powerless to stop the Santa Cruz Police Department from enforcing the camping ban--or changing that law.

10am. Nüz arrives at Camp Paradise to find that though police issued 32 camping tickets, they singled out Templeton for additional environmental charges, the details of which camper Chris "A.I." Foye is researching at the Santa Cruz County Law Library.

Police also issued five camp residents (not including Templeton) with vouchers entitling them to two nights at a motel.

Diabetic Kay Alden says the police said they'd only give her a voucher if she'd be willing to use it. But as voucher-bearing campers soon discover, the offer is difficult to act on: Fridays in August are among the busiest of the motel year.

Kay's husband, Don "Dirt Clod" Alden, asks, "Should we accept this offer of a 'weekend excursion' with nowhere to go at the end of it? Or ask that the money be saved up towards a more laudable project, like buying a permanent piece of land?"

Describing herself as "totally bummed," client advocacy manager Karin Brock of the Homeless Community Resource Center can only place two couples in motels. "We've been asking the city for a homeless campground for so long, but they won't do it because this is a tourist town," Brock complains.

Ken Cole, the center's executive director, says he suggested funds be made available for motels "as an incentive to get people to pack up and move on, since [there's] no way we can provide shelter for all those campers here."

High Noon

Foye reports that three of the charges against Larry--camping, mutilation of plants and creating a public nuisance with bike parts--are municipal violations. The other two--altering a streambed (a reference to the camp's riverside fishpond) and permitting garbage to pass into the waters of the state --are Department of Fish and Game infractions.

While the state code violations carry fines of up to $25,000, they're not felonies--thereby laying to rest concerns that two-striker Templeton could end up in the slammer for life. Foye is also confident the camping tickets will be thrown out, "since there is no place for campers to go."

4pm. Camp Paradise attorney Paul Sanford says a 5-week cooling off option in return for ticket dismissal was discussed with Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice and Assistant City Manager Martin Bernal, if campers agree to leave by Labor Day when campgrounds and motels empty, but that neither the mayor nor Templeton have agreed to anything.

A discussion ensues. Campers are torn between losing their community, if Camp Paradise disbands, and losing public support, if they make deals they can't keep. Since the city council doesn't meet in August, campers speculate the raid was deliberately scheduled when councilmembers would be hard to reach. Says Foye, "One thing is clear. We'll be hassled, ticketed and potentially arrested as long as we are on public land."

Warning against fighting fire with fire, Sanford reminds the camp that it "has community support, because it hasn't lied or broken deals," but it's Templeton who has the final word.

"Right now there is no deal, but there are tickets. I suggest we stay and fight. Not physically, not with violence, but by standing our ground," says Templeton, distributing tinfoil-covered horn blowers so campers can wake each other in the event of another early-morning raid. "It may not be New Year's, but we do have horns," he adds.

6pm. A heavily tattooed Rev. Jeff Lilley, who has been holding revival services at the camp for the last six weeks, announces the setting up of a Christian revival camp, which he claims is protected for one year under existing federal law.

Meanwhile, Wiccan worshipper Jeff "Squirrel" Jeppeson, who only has six months to live because of HIV-related liver damage, says the threat of tickets and jail is making his last days a living hell. "You can be born free, but you can't die free," Jeppeson says.

Revivalism

Aug. 5, noon: Sunday worship at Camp Paradise begins with a donation of $300 worth of camping equipment and groceries from anonymous community members. Campers pray in thanks.

"We ain't no preachers, but we have God in our hearts," say Templeton and Dirt Clod, standing in for an ailing Rev. Lilley. Leading the service from the pulpit of a revival tent, Templeton reads from Luke 10:19: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

Then it's Dirt Clod's turn. "Satan has been in this camp every day this week, a shadow person who has tried to turn us against each other. We need to stay together," he concludes.

Aug. 6. Templeton condemns an email that suggests calling city and elected officials about homelessness in the middle of the night.

"Homelessness needs to be addressed in Santa Cruz, and we've made a wave for the homeless people, but Camp Paradise does not condone harassment," Templeton says.

City Attorney John Barisone says the SCPD "was just following standard procedures," but Sanford contends the actions were anything but routine, given the charges against Templeton. "I can't believe the DA's office will fully prosecute these politically motivated and environmentally ironic allegations," Sanford says. "To charge Mr. Templeton with what amounts to an environmental crime is not only a travesty. It's a disgrace."

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From the August 8-15, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.




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