After rest stop on way to Tahoe closes, travelers relieve themselves 'wherever they please'

This story originally appeared on KCRA.

GOLD RUN, Calif. (KCRA) — Caltrans was forced to indefinitely close recently updated and just reopened rest stops in the Gold Run area after people flushed objects not intended for the wastewater treatment system.

Some of those products include diapers, feminine products, leftover food and syringes.

However, that’s not the only problem.

Residents and business owners in the Gold Run area said the closure of the eastbound and westbound rest stops has exacerbated another issue: Sierra travelers who believe they can relieve themselves wherever they please.

“Travelers come up to this street to use our yard, not only as a dumping ground but to urinate and defecate in our yard,” said Crista Huffman, who lives near Main Street and Magra Road.

Huffman and her husband, who moved to the area 14 years ago, installed a wire fence to keep people from trying to get on their property. One time a family tried to toboggan on their land.

“I had one woman come up here; she had her two kids — my dogs were barking. I came out to ask her what she was doing,” Huffman said. “Obviously, I saw what she was doing, and I told her, I said, ‘I don’t do that in your yard.’ She looked at me like a deer in headlights and put her kids in the car and drove off.”

Huffman said she’s had to clean up trash and diapers left behind by people who lack respect for Sierra environment. It’s been a steady problem over the years, she said.

That problem, according to Sandee Bell, owner of Mountain Springs Hitch-n-Post, has been made worse by the closures of the rest stops.

“People defecating, leaving trash, not cleaning up after themselves. This is kind of our backyard, so we want to keep it clean. The rule is pack it in, pack it out and take extra,” she said.

Bell said she once watched as a father brought his son to the side of her bar to use the bathroom.

“We don’t go to your home and dump our trash and defecate in your yard. So, don’t do it here,” she said.

The California Highway Patrol in Gold Run is aware of the issues, too. Officer Tim Brown said it must be addressed.

“It’s disgusting, and it is a public safety hazard,” Brown said. “They care less and less about the trash, and they’re more willing to just throw things onto the freeway thinking someone else will pick it up. It does seem like it’s gotten worse over the years.”

Brown said his fellow officers often find feces on the highway, as well as bottles full of urine.

“People pull over on the side of the road and they step in it. People drive through it. The freeway smells,” he said.

Catching people in the act is hard. He said most offenders wait until dark or when no one is around to dump their trash or use the bathroom.

Work on the rest stops

Caltrans first closed the Gold Run area rest stops last May to get the water delivery and wastewater treatment systems up to current state code.

Once that work was completed, the rest stops reopened Dec. 19.

A little more than a month later, Caltrans was forced to shut down the rest areas again because of the public’s misuse of the toilets. It led to a pump failure.

The project cost $6.2 million and was funded through the State Highway Operations and Protection Program.

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