By CHRIS BOSTON
Special to the News
In light of all the recent discussion about the revised plans for waterfront development by the Port of Hood River, I felt it important to remind the Port officials to consider the new sport of kiteboarding in their future plans.
On Sunday afternoon of the Memorial Day weekend I counted roughly 50 inflated kites either in the air or on the beach between the Hook and the Hood River Marina.
It is clear that kiteboarding is here to stay and will continue to gain popularity much like windsurfing did in the mid 1980s.
While restricting the kites to the sand spit was acceptable over the past few years, the growing number of kiteboarders is quickly outgrowing (and will certainly surpass) the capacity of this limited area.
High river levels on that weekend made the sand bar practically nonexistent, and there was clearly not enough space for all the kites. It seemed especially difficult for the kiteboarding schools (who pay to use this area) to find enough space to safely carry out their lessons. Kiteboarding collisions in overcrowded conditions now pose a greater threat than conflicts between kiteboarders and windsurfers.
It is obvious that the kiteboarders need more space on the Hood River waterfront. It is also interesting to note that due to the light winds on Sunday of Memorial weekend, there were only about 10 windsurfers on the water during the same time period. The area directly in front of the Event Site was relatively vacant.
I would propose that a new windsurfing park be built on Lot #6 where kiteboarding is not allowed. This would place the windsurfers who choose to sail there safely upwind of the kiteboarders. The current Event Site could then become a multi-use park for both kiteboarding and windsurfing while the sand spit would remain a kite only site.
This would allow more advanced kiteboarders to use the Event Site on light wind days when there are few windsurfers and the spit is crowded with novice kiters.
The Event Site would also remain open to the large number of windsurfers who don’t object to sailing among the kites on the windier days when there would be fewer kites on the water.
There have been very few conflicts between the windsurfers and kiteboarders at other launches (Stevenson, Hatchery, Rowena, Rufus, Roosevelt), so it is clear that a multi-use park can work. This should also increase revenue for the Port due to the additional access fees from the kiteboarders on the light wind days when windsurfing turnout is low.
It is hard to justify additional hotels or condos along the waterfront when the reduced river access will turn away the very tourists these accomodations are hoping to attract.
Chris Boston lives in Hood River.