Two children stuck by needle in Little Morro Creek

Two children were stuck by a hypodermic needle while playing in Little Morro Creek on Saturday, and city officials are planning a major cleanup of the area, where homeless residents and drug users are known to live and hang out.

Both children were later tested at a local hospital, and officials say they do not know yet if the needle was contaminated.

The children, whose ages were not released, were playing near the creek during soccer games being held at nearby Lila Keiser Park, Deputy City Manager Sam Taylor said Monday.

They were treated and tested at a local hospital, and city staff is in contact with their parents, who Taylor said reported the incident to a recreation staffer at the park.

The needle was also tested, but “the city has been told no definitive information about the needle was able to be gathered from the test,” according to a city statement Monday.

The kids will be retested in six weeks and six months, according to the city.

The creek area, which borders the southern side of the park, is used as a living space by some of the city’s homeless population. Trash and dangerous items such as hypodermic needles have accumulated over time.

The creek area is private property, Taylor said, and the city’s Recreation Services Division regularly posts signs warning people against trespassing.

The city relocated community meals that were previously provided at Lila Keiser Park to the Veterans Memorial Hall to reduce encampments in the creek.

We’re going to be very thoughtful about the way we do this. Homelessness is not a crime, but obviously this is a public safety issue.

Deputy City Manager Sam Taylor

Taylor said Morro Bay police closely monitor the area; nearly half of the 130 calls for police response there since January were initiated by patrolling officers who make contact with the resident transient population.

Although Morro Bay police don’t assign specific officers to patrol the area, “they’re very proactive in going out there,” Taylor said.

Given the anticipated wet winter and the potential for flooding in the creek, which serves as rain outfall into the Pacific Ocean, City Manager Dave Buckingham and eight staffers toured the location earlier this month in preparation for a pre-winter creek cleanup with representatives from Dynegy Inc., which owns the property.

On Dec. 10-11, city and company staff will conduct a large-scale cleanup, which will include clearing the area of garbage, overgrown vegetation and any encampments.

“This will be a major operation,” Taylor said.

The city will begin posting signs on the property warning anyone staying there of the upcoming cleanup, so they can move their property.

“We’re going to be very thoughtful about the way we do this. Homelessness is not a crime,” Taylor said. “But obviously, this is a public safety issue.”

One Morro Bay resident who was at the park on Saturday with other parents when they learned about the needle said the incident was no surprise to anyone who frequents the park during soccer season.

Previous cleanup efforts made people feel safer for a while, she said, before the homeless activity picked up again.

Anyone with safety concerns in the area should call 911, the city recommended in its statement Monday.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1