The Port of Hood River is fed up with kiteboarding violations that have turned into an annual public safety problem.
Just last week, the airborne devices were used for “street kiting” in two off-limit areas, the parking lot of the Event Site and Lot 6, a vacant parcel on the waterfront.
Dave Harlan, port executive director, intends to discuss a temporary ban on the sport with the Port Commission at its next meeting on March 4. He said that action could be necessary until there is a guaranteed way to prevent kiteboards from being used along the Columbia River shoreline where other recreational activities are also taking place.
“The kiteboarders need to get organized and this needs to quit happening — it’s just the same thing every year,” he said.
Harlan said kiteboarding is restricted to the Hook and a sandbar northeast of the Event Site for a simple reason. He said the port is trying to prevent injury to bystanders caused by a collision or entanglement in the 85-to-100 foot drag lines needed to launch and land the equipment. He said that danger is heightened by the fact that kiteboards typically travel between 20 and 25 miles per hour and can rise 20 feet above ground level.
In 2000, the port agreed to allow the sport when the Gorge Kite Boarding Association offered to be self-enforcing and educate participants about the importance of adhering to the rules. As part of that effort, the Hood River-based group helped port officials develop wording for signs that were posted in the restricted zones. In return, the port helped provide easier access to the waterside at the Hook by upgrading two primitive ramps.
But Harlan said the self-policing policy appears not to be fully effective since the kiteboarding season begins with at least several forays into prohibited areas. He said the liability risk is just too high to allow those “irresponsible” actions to continue.
“If people can’t read and follow the signs then the easiest thing for us to do is ban it,” he said.