ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- The portion of Elm Creek that passes under South First Street is piled with pockets of litter, some from illegal dumping and some the remnants of overnight stays by our homeless neighbors. Jack Kaikratoke owns the China Star Restaurant, which is just a few feet from the creek. He says the litter really hasn’t been that much of an issue until this year.
“(It’s gotten) Bigger this year – before. . . one, two, three. . . now they rotate. Different groups all the time. . . they love to stay under the bridge. They trash it out and behind my property. It’s bad, and more and more are coming,” Kaikratoke told KTAB/KRBC.
While he says he has caught at least one person coming out to illegally dump their refuse in the woods, Kaikratoke says he’s seen more than a few folks returning every night to set up camp. The alcohol containers, pillows, and various garbage found along the network of worn footpaths through the woods and under the bridge paint a picture of semi-permeant residence by many housing unsecure folks.
“Trash, old blankets, needles all kinds of stuff, you name it and it’s down there.” Said Kaikratoke.
The most heavily littered areas can be found within the woods though that trash continues to spill over into the China Star parking lot. Kaikratoke saying he has to spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a month to keep his property clean.
“It’s bad. I have to send my employees come out and keep cleaning something that we’re not even doing,” Kaikratoke said.
The South First bridge is the responsibility of the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT crews could be seen Monday clearing out trash from underneath the bridge. But further back into the woods beyond their jurisdiction, and seemingly nothing has been done by anyone to clean up the footpaths and creek sides for at least a mile.
“If I clean my zone, I think somebody else needs to clean their zone as well,” said Kaikratoke.
Kaikratoke says he is unsure why the homeless population in this area has been growing recently. Though he did state that for a time, some of his staff had taken to giving food to those in need. He says this only made the issue worse.
“After we feed them, more coming and they’re trashing our parking lot more, so we don’t do that anymore,” said Kaikratoke.
But the litter isn’t the only sign of life out in Elm Creek. Kaikratoke says he’s had to confront people on multiple occasions for using his outdoor outlets without permission, and sleeping on or near the business. He also claims to have witnessed vehicles parking in his lot, distributing unknown items to people below the bridge and vacating the area. That combined with the needles found in pockets deeper back in the woods are possible sign of drug dealing, he believes.
Kaikratoke has reached out for help through several avenues but says he has received no recourse to deal with the plague of litter. With no clear avenues to end the problems, he says he feels he has no choice but to repeat the costly cycle.
“It seem like we got no help you know? We got no help,” Kaikratoke said.
The TxDOT cleaning below the South First bridge is not a regularly scheduled cleaning, though staff says they do check on the area and clean it on a semi frequent basis.