County looks at new park rules
County commissioners will hold a public hearing on a new parks ordinance at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Baker County Courthouse, 1995 Third St. The second and final public hearing is set for the commissioners' Oct. 19 meeting. For more information, or to receive a copy of the proposed ordinance, phone Robin Nudd, executive assistant to the board of commissioners, at 541/523-8200.
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
A proposed county parks ordinance won't receive unanimous public endorsement when county commissioners hold a public hearing on it Wednesday.
The ordinance, approved unanimously Sept. 13 by the county's Parks and Recreation board, specifies the rules and regulations that sheriff's deputies can enforce at Hewitt and Holcomb parks. It also gives deputies authority to cite people who break those rules.
The current ordinance dates back to 1987 and needed to be updated, said county Parks Director Lorrie Harvey, so that "all campers may enjoy their time at the park."
"Most of these items are common sense items," she said, "but (they) need to be written down in order for the deputy on duty to enforce them."
"On several occasions," Harvey wrote to county commissioners in her staff report, "it has been stated by campers that if it is not in the ordinance, then it does not apply and will not be adhered to. This has created situations where managing the park has been difficult."
But at least one Eagle Valley businessman believes the new rules could prove bad for the businesses that lodge, feed and float the anglers and campers who visit Brownlee Reservoir.
Bob Stanley, a Richland guide and boat-rental manager, says the proposal could be bad for his business because it limits the number of hours that boats can be left in the water. Under the new ordinance, boats left unattended can be removed and impounded at the expense of the owner.
People launching boats from the dock, for example, can leave their boats unattended 15 minutes under the proposed ordinance. And vehicles and boat trailers cannot "impair access to and from the boat ramps located in the Park at any time."
That kind of proscription could hurt some of the businesses in and around Richland, Stanley said, already suffering other challenges. Less-than-stellar fishing at Brownlee Reservoir this summer and high gas prices have helped to cut in half the number of fishing boats available for rent in Stanley's fleet.
"People have been coming here for 25 and 30 years, but they're not coming back," he said. "We've got to get (the new ordinance) looked at."
Stanley said he plans to voice his concerns with the new ordinance at Wednesday's public hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. in commission chambers at the Baker County Courthouse, 1995 Third St.
Stanley said he also disputes whether the county can even enforce its ordinances all the way down to the waterline of Brownlee Reservoir.
He says that the county's authority extends only to the reservoir's highwater mark, but Harvey said she has received a letter from Idaho Power Corp. granting the county an easement down to the shores of the reservoir.
Stanley claims the county is over-stepping its authority.
"They're trying to control what I can do on the waterway," Stanley said. "I think the county's taking way too much responsibility. That's the Marine Board's job, not theirs."
This summer was Stanley's sixth season in the boat-rental business. He also owns a Richland tackle store, where business was down about 33 percent this summer compared to 2004, he said.
While he says that the new regulations are not responsible for this year's business downturn, he's worried that new restrictions might have an impact on next year's boat rentals and tackle sales.
Other parts of ordinance
Other portions of the proposed ordinance probably won't prove controversial at all:
o Tents cannot be staked to the asphalt
o Tent sites are limited to six campers
o There's no overnight camping at county historical markers and other facilities, including the new vault toilet at the Bishop Springs rest area and at informational markers within the county, including the Hells Canyon Information Wayside. Violators are subject to a $45 fine per occurrence if they camp where they're not supposed to
o No food preparation is allowed in the restrooms, fish-cleaning areas, or showers at the county's Brownlee Reservoir park facilities.