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OPINION: An Army vet comments on Truckee River camps


Tents and garbage from a homeless camp along the bank of the Truckee River.
Photo: Trevor Bexon

By Bruce Parks

I’ve spent many wonderful hours fly-fishing our beautiful Truckee River. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time volunteering on Truckee River clean-ups: removing drug syringes, human feces, and ridiculously large piles of toxic trash. 

Bruce Parks

These items were not left by other fly fishermen or family picnics. They were put there by illegal, homeless-by-choice squatters, criminals, and drug addicts. This dangerous group has LESS than no interest in “homeless services” because they have no interest in changing their lifestyles. 

A toothbrush and a pair of socks from self-congratulatory, uninformed do-gooders is not what they want. They just want to be left alone to hide behind the “homeless” label, and pursue self-destructive, parasitic lifestyles with no interference from the Reno Police. 

Sadly, our cops are giving them exactly what they’re asking for. The illegal, riverfront squatters care nothing about this community. They care nothing about the river they’re polluting: the river that supplies 85 percent of the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of us.

For some reason, the Reno Police and City Council allow this riverfront situation to continue and worsen. 

For some reason, the Sparks Police and City Council do NOT allow this situation on their part of the river. 

I spent some time thinking about this discrepancy, and came to two conclusions:

  • It ain’t right.
  • I don’t get it.

It ain’t right

It ain’t right how the neighboring cities of Reno and Sparks receive such different results from their police departments. Both departments are tasked with enforcing the same laws – on the same part of the Truckee River. Both police departments are dealing with the same criminal/vagrant population. The taxpayers of both cities pay their police force the same amount to keep their citizens and water source safe. 

But the results are NOT the same.

Reno’s riverfront areas are fouled with filth and crime and unusable. Sparks’ riverfront area is much cleaner, safer and more usable.

One city is getting their money’s-worth from their police force. One city is not.

I don’t get It

I don’t understand why the Reno Police and City Council have let the illegal river camps get so out of control that I need to carry a .45 when I go fly-fishing. 

I don’t understand why, year after year, the Reno City Council and police leadership let this problem worsen, and STILL get re-elected and maintain their jobs.

My career in the military, especially my years in combat zones, taught me that there’s a difference between “right” and “wrong.” It taught me that any problem can be fixed, but it requires personal accountability. 

By ANY way of figuring, Reno’s riverfront squatters’ camps are “wrong.” Many people are being well-paid to fix this problem and are not getting the job done. Their ineffectiveness is seriously endangering the community’s future. 

The people responsible need to be held accountable for resolving this problem immediately, or they need to be replaced. 

Bruce Parks, is a Sparks resident and avid fly fisherman. He retired from the U.S. Army after 20+ years as an aircraft mechanic, nuclear/biological/chemical operations specialist, and combat veteran. He is also a member of American Patriots of Sparks, Nevada.

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