The Canyon Community Association wants action on the shortage of accommodation for the annual influx of transient workers during the cherry harvest each summer.
In a letter discussed by Creston town council on July 12, association president Deb Nelius expressed a litany of concerns, along with a request for financial compensation from local regional directors.
“As you are aware, each summer for the past five years there has been an impromptu cherry worker camp along the Goat River which is accessed from the Canyon-Lister Road,” Nelius wrote in a letter dated June 29. “There are no facilities to support this unsanctioned camp, yet it continues to increase in size since its birth in 2010. Initially seven migrant workers stayed there. By 2015 there were 120-plus people using this ‘camp’ nightly. This harvest season — which will begin in approximately two weeks — will no doubt see even higher numbers of workers living in squalid conditions under the bridge. These workers are willing to pay for accommodation, but there is none, so they stay here without access to the most basic of needs.”
Potable water, toilet, shower and cooking facilities are needed, she said, along with garbage disposal and provisions for safety and security of belongings.
“This challenge is an extremely convoluted one and not unique to our agricultural valley,” the letter said. “All of you know I have been working extremely hard over the past four years on behalf of the Canyon community to find a solution to this problem.”
The problem is largely created because some orchard owners do not provide decent accommodation, or any at all, so “as there is no other alternative these cherry workers have been forced to resort [to] camping at the bridge.”
Canyon Park has some camping facilities, including showers and toilets, but they were pushed beyond capacity in 2015, Nelius wrote. Long shower lineups, jimmying of coin boxes, people sneaking into camp and a large volunteer effort to keep the bridge camp clean and safe have caused volunteer burnout and cost the association more than $8,500.
She called on regional directors for action to resolve the accommodation shortage and asked for financial compensation.
“The CCA is requesting $8,531 to offset our financial hardships from the 2015 harvest season.”
“Obviously, Fields Forward is working on the accommodation issue,” said Mayor Ron Toyota on Friday. “And it is clearly been a frustrating experience for the CCA and area residents. But I am not sure that the town and regional directors should be financially responsible for association’s cost. It will be an interesting discussion.”