June 22, 2005
Regarding the squabble between the City of Hood River and Port of Hood River over the parking fee at The Spit, just look at the location in question:
A sandbar. Things shift, and sometimes you have to go with what is there. On the other hand, it is helpful to look at what that particular site needs.
The gradually-improving sense of cooperation between the port and city over waterfront matters is too valuable to shake up over a $2 fee. In tight fiscal times, most recreationalists would be willing to pay the fee in exchange for improved facilities. (See "Sandbar parking fee launches new debate" for details.)
The fun is to be had on the sandbar and the waves that surround it, but the improvements are for terra firma.
Grading of the parking lot and access road was a welcome improvement to the popular spot. For erosion control, emergency access, and just plain user-friendliness, upgrading the road was the right thing to do, and while no one likes to see any trees removed arbitrarily, it looks like the reasons for doing so were correct — removing a poison oak hazard — while the means of disposal (dumping over the bank) were not. And the port has acknowledged that. Trees certainly are significant details. At the very least, the port now knows of another thing to watch for, in conjunction with the city, in any future contracts.
What can emerge from the debate over the propriety and timing of the fee is a positive discussion over how best to plan for improvements at The Spit and other public areas. The city believed it needed to make its concerns known for the benefit of the community. The Port has shown willingness to listen. From here, the two agencies should focus on their mutual concerns of fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship. Such a recognition can be the healthy basis for all discussions.