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8 families told to move from campground


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    KNIGHTS FERRY, California (KCRA) — The heart of Knights Ferry — the downtown area — comprises just a few blocks. Visitors can walk by the town’s general store, ice cream shop and saloon in less than five minutes. This small historic town is often a big draw for visitors, where the mesmerizing rapids of the Stanislaus River are easily accessible.

In a small lot, just off of downtown Knights Ferry, is the River’s Edge campground. Half of the campground contains tiny homes and spots where short-term visitors stay. The other half has been home to some tenants for months, years and even a decade.

And by May 8, the campground will no longer be home to at least eight of those families.

“I am 70 years old. This was going to be, you can see, it’s a beautiful spot,” said Susz Lay, a tenant who has lived on the campground for two years.

Lay said she has no other options, seeing that RV places she could move to are either full, reserved or too expensive.

David Safrans, 68, is another tenant. Formerly a Bay Area resident, he said he traded that life 11 years ago for what he called the beauty of nothing. He is also shocked by the news and said he is not ready to relocate, especially keeping his physical disabilities in mind.

“I come up and say, ‘Yeah, I want to be here. Nothing up here,'” Safrans said. “I’ve been here ever since, yeah, it’s beautiful up here.”

On a fixed income, he, and at least three other families we spoke to, said they have nowhere else to go.

Ramen Spears, property manager for the campground, spoke to us in a Zoom interview. He said he’s been working with tenants since August 2019.

Spears said the changes were made because the property owner’s current permit is for short-term visitors only.

“But we’re not permitted and we’re not set up for long-term camping, unfortunately,” he said, explaining that under the current permit, all RVs and trailers had to have updated registrations and must be in working order.

Lay said some of the RVs and trailers had been at the campground for so long that she worries about how they would be able to move them off the property.

The process of changing permits for long-term use is a complicated and lengthy process, according to Spears. But the property owner is not against the idea even it means starting all over again with the permitting process, Spears said.

The previous property manager before Spears took over in 2019 did allow for long-term tenants, but he said the former owner was cited several times and was told to make the change to short-term camping. That is why Spears said he told tenants almost two years ago that they were required to move.

A Stanislaus County representative said that in 2020, the property was issued at least three citations. However, no fines have been issued recently since the property owner has been working with the county’s planning department.

“I mean, I guess that’s their prerogative, but it doesn’t do us any good,” Safrans said.

For the families we spoke to, they’re not ready to trade in the rural, small-town charm of Knights Ferry, for an apartment or Section 8 housing.

Safrans said he will be working to find affordable housing. Lay said she is looking for a new space for her older RV but is finding it challenging.

“This is our home. This is our community. Absolutely,” Lay said.

The county representative said county officials have been working with residents to link them to resources and other help.

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