CAMERON PARK -- El Dorado County has set aside land in Cameron Park that is home to rare plants found nowhere else.
They have names like Stebbins Morning Glory, Pine Hill Ceanothus, El Dorado Bedstraw and Layne’s Butterweed, and only grow in the red volcanic rock found in the area.
For years, the hilly, 20-acre site just down the street from a shopping mall on Cameron Park Drive was left alone for the rare and endangered plants, but then it was discovered by homeless residents and those looking to dump trash illegally.
Neighbors tell us that trails once used for hiking and the high school cross country team became too dangerous to use.
Paul Dauksavage is homeless and lives nearby. He says disputes here can lead to crimes.
"People stealing other people’s stuff, it’s a problem. That’s when things get violent, people lying, people saying, 'So and so stole this,' and 'So and so stole that,'" he told FOX40.
The proximity to a major street has also made it an illegal dumping ground -- hardly a pristine haven for rare and endangered plants.
The county has now taken steps to solve several problems at once.
"I think it's our obligation to get in there and manage the land and subsequent to the removal of trash it’s the removal of illegal camping and also protecting neighboring properties from wildfires," planning and building director Roger Trout said.
The Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Team has already taken steps to find shelter for many of the homeless here or have let them know what’s coming.
"A lot of the people have moved out of here, probably 40 to 50 percent moved out of here, they don’t want police contact so the left," Dauksavage said.
The money will come from an existing fund that uses development and building fees. Cleaning up the site is one thing, keeping it clean and protected is another.
"The first step is to clean up the property and fuel management, but obviously controlling access is going to be part of that plan," Trout said.
Which means, eventually, some sort of barrier or fencing.
Dauksavage has doubts about whether that will work.
"It’s kind of a waste of money because the homeless always have to go somewhere," he said.
Nearby residents and those who want to save endangered plants say that’s OK, as long as it’s not here.