ARANSAS PASS, Texas — Everyone likes for their city and neighborhood to be clean, but in Aransas Pass, people from nearby cities are squatting and camping in open land, leaving trash behind after their stay.
Liz Dorris volunteers to pick up trash left behind by illegal dumpers a few times a year. She said she just wants her city to look nice even if people from nearby cities ruin it.
“Some of it is happening more close to the harbor area. We have a lot of streets, there’s a few streets over that aren’t fully paved and there’s not a whole of traffic so they have a tendency in those kind of areas,” Dorris said.
Even people from out-of-state who stay here during the winter, like Steve Rugroden from Minnesota, said he’s noticed illegal dumping in Aransas Pass. He said compared to Minnesota, Texas needs to do more to stop people from throwing trash throughout the city.
“In Minnesota they had an Adopt-A-Highway program for years where people volunteer to go clean the roadways and stuff like that. Down here there’s very little of that,” he said.
Cory Elrod is one of the code enforcement officers for the Aransas Pass Police Department and said he’s the one that picks up the trash, patrolling areas hit with the most trash three times a week and cleaning up four times a year.
“They’re fed up with it just like we are. It’s trashing up the town, it’s trashing up a very highly traveled area from tourists that come from out of town,” Elrod said.
The Aransas Pass Police Department’s chief, Eric Blanchard, said many squatters illegally dump in undeveloped areas of the city where they can easily hide not just themselves, but their items as well.
“It’s kind of like trash breeds more trash. If we don’t quickly get out there and address it or clean it up. Yes, we will see that other people will find the location and use that same location,” Blanchard said.
He said a lot of them illegally dump in areas like Stedman Island and east of the Dale Miller Bridge. He said those that are squatting can face consequences because the state of Texas passed a law against encampments. He said those that illegally dump can face charges up to a felony. It just depends on the size of the trash and the amount of areas it covers.
Blanchard said crimes like prostitution and drugs can also be associated with squatters and those who illegally dump, but it was more of a common crime eight years ago.
When it comes to picking up the items left behind, Blanchard said the legal process can get in the way.
“If we arrest anybody then we have to store those belongings and provide them reasonable opportunity to recover it if they’re basically camping or homeless or whatever,” Blanchard said.