With the windy season off the bench and fixing to pitch fastballs through the Gorge for four straight months, waterfront recreation is a top priority for the Port of Hood River.
Signs need replacing, curbs need repainting, rules need revisiting and changes in the order of many operations need to be finalized to prepare port property and procedures for what is sure to be another very busy summer on the banks of the Columbia River.
"We're anticipating a terrific season on the waterfront," said Michael McElwee, Port of Hood River executive director. "We've been working together with the waterfront recreation committee, the CGWA (Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association) and the CGKA (Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association) to get ready for the season, and at this point it feels like we are ahead of the game. We're looking forward to a great season."
Here's a list of some updates/changes in store for this season:
Spit parking: Parking at the Spit will be free this year. In previous years, the port paid more money to staff the booth at the entrance to the spit than it collected in revenue. The port will continue to provide portable restrooms and maintenance at the site.
Event site parking: Parking in and around the Event Site has been a topic of much discussion over the last few months. The port would like to have more users park inside the Event Site and pay for the service by purchasing day or seasonal passes. Parking on Portway Avenue and North First Street outside the Event Site has increased considerably over the last few years, while parking within the Event Site has not. In an effort to encourage people to either park for free at the Spit, or park within the Event Site, parking along Portway Avenue and a section of North First Street will be changed from unrestricted to an unmetered 90-minute parking. In addition, to encourage users to purchase season passes, the port will offer a pre-season discount of $10-off until May 20.
Boat basin access: The gravel road and parking area at Nichols Boat Basin will remain open, but launching or landing of motorized watercraft will not be allowed. Rules within the basin have not changed, but motorized watercraft access from the parking area will be restricted.
Sandbar cleanup: The Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association held a sandbar cleanup over the weekend to remove hazards deposited on the surface of the sandbar during a high water event in January. The Army Corps of Engineers agreed to lower the water level for the day to aid in the effort. In-water hazard - submerged logs - in front of the Event Site and to the west of the sandbar have been identified by early-season kiteboarders and windsurfers. Handling those hazards must be done in conjunction with state law, which limits what can be done with material in a waterway. McElwee said the port is looking into how those hazards can be addressed.
Jetty repair: The port contracted a crew earlier this year to repair the two jetties that flank the Event Site. The upgrade restored the jetties to their original level above the water, which will help protect the Event Site from erosion. A good deal of new gravel was added to the Event Site at water's edge to replace what had washed away over the years.
Concessions: The port will keep closer tabs on windsurfing and kiteboarding schools they have concession agreements with. The same number of schools will be allowed this season, but closer oversight by the port will be a priority. Port staff will visit schools on a regular basis through the summer to make sure the businesses are being run according to rules and regulations and individual concession agreements. An official complaint process will also be established to provide a means for the public to register issues or conflicts they may encounter during the season.
Next meeting: The Port of Hood River board of commissioners meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month (5 p.m., Marina board room). The meetings are open to everyone and a public comment period is allotted at the beginning of each meeting. For meeting minutes and agendas or for more information, visit www.portofhoodriver.com.