The Port of Hood River is looking at how to manage increased use and demand at the Event Site during peak summer months.
The Event Site has increasingly been used by kiteboarders during high water periods in recent summers, usually during July.
“The problem is when there is very little sandbar and the crush of summer is on us,” commissioner Rich McBride told the rest of the commission Monday night. “When there is no sandbar this is the only game in town.”
In previous years the port has simply set a time frame for kiteboarders to use the Event Site when the sandbar and other popular kiting launch areas are underwater.
The port is developing a comprehensive waterfront recreation plan, and formed a subcommittee to deal with safety concerns through the crowding at the Event Site during the height of the summer.
“The Event Site has become an extremely busy place; we’ve seen more visitors last year than we have since 2007,” Port Waterfront Recreation Coordinator Liz Whitmore told the Port Commission. “There are a lot of different uses; a lot of different activities going on, and when we hit that month of July it kind of explodes.”
Whitmore said that last summer the port sold about 600 Event Site daily parking passes in June, and more than 2,000 in July.
McBride and Whitmore said that the Event Site is viewed as the place to be in Hood River during the summer and in addition to windsurfers launching from the site, it draws kiteboarders during high water, stand-up paddle boarders, spectators for on-the-water activities and plenty of others who come simply to hang out or picnic on the beach.
With so many people crowding into one area, Whitmore says keeping everyone safe has become an increasing concern.
One of the biggest ways to help reduce congestion, Whitmore said, would be to designate a specific area for kiteboarding during high water. She suggested the eastern edge of the event site for that purpose.
“There really needs to be a designated area for kiteboarding,” she said. “During high water conditions it would only be accessible for kiteboarding and everybody else would be directed to the west.”
She also floated the idea of a buoy line in the water to designate to windsurfers when they were leaving their area and straying toward the kiteboard launch area.
McBride said that the problems could begin to be fixed through increased signage and communication, particularly for tourists or those not familiar with the area.
“We want to try at the very first stop sign to give them direction where to go; currently there is very little signage pointing people, for instance, over to the city park,” he said. “That is a very appropriate place where families who want to go and swim and quite a few windsurfers also use that area.
“So to at the very outset, to give people who are unfamiliar with the Event Site and the waterfront in general, to tell them swimming is ahead or go right to go kiting, and then when they get to the next decision point you can go kiting and windsurfing here or swimming here.” McBride and Whitmore also raised the possibility of having a port employee on hand at the waterfront to direct people and supervise waterfront safety, but the port’s insurance agent said that might tough for the port to do in terms of getting the person properly qualified.
The port will continue to discuss the topic into next year but hopes to have a plan in place by the summer.