Workers from contractor Dillard's Environmental Services clean up the "Hell's Trail" encampment Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Caltrans moves to clear ‘Hell’s Trail’ encampment alongside Highway 1

After warning residents of the settlement last week to vacate the area, Caltrans moved in Monday to clear the site on state-owned property between Highway 1 and the Santa Cruz Memorial cemetery.

Six weeks after the agency moved to clear out a homeless encampment at the intersection of Highways 1 and 9, Caltrans on Monday began a similar process at the “Hell’s Trail” settlement located between Highway 1 and the Santa Cruz Memorial cemetery.

With officers from the California Highway Patrol on hand, workers from Caltrans contractor Dillard’s Environmental Services worked to raze several dozen structures, many of them wooden, on the state-owned property.

With several fires having sparked at the encampment in recent months, “allowing these dwellings to continue here could be a real hazard to the people residing here,” one CHP officer said.

The notice to vacate was posted last Thursday, and CHP officers were at the encampment over the weekend providing outreach numbers to Hell’s Trail encampment residents — many of whom simply moved up the river to city-owned land, while others were left looking to relocate elsewhere in Santa Cruz.

Mark Buckman, site supervisor for Dillard’s Environmental Services, said he expected the cleanup to take his crew most of the week. “We’ll have it looking brand new by Friday,” he said.

More of what Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud saw Monday: