PORT ANGELES — Clallam County lawmakers have banned overnight camping at two rest areas.
The three commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt new regulations that limit the use of county-owned rest areas to eight hours per day. Volunteer compliance will be encouraged.
“I appreciate the compassionate approach that we’re taking while still addressing public safety,” Commissioner Bill Peach said.
The new regulations, which mirror state law, affect two county rest areas, one at U.S. Highway 101 near Deer Park Road and the other at state Highway 112 and Lower Dam Road.
Abandoned vehicles will be subject to an impound after being left at either rest area for 48 hours.
“Enforcement will be done in a compassionate manner, first with outreach and the navigator working with any individuals who are homeless or are in the rest area because they have nowhere else to go,” said Elizabeth Stanley, Clallam County civil deputy prosecuting attorney.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office will work with navigator Amy Miller of the Port Angeles Police Department’s REdisCOVERY program to help campers find other shelter, Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said.
“She’s very successful in pairing them with resources and getting them into shelters, but there’s just some people that flat-out refuse to accept those resources,” King told commissioners Tuesday.
“And so building that rapport over time is critical for us to accomplish our task out there, but ultimately what we do face is the fact that there’s some people that are just so darn stubborn that they choose to defy the resources that are provided to them,” King said.
Deputies have encountered hypodermic needles and abandoned vehicles at the Deer Park rest area, particularly in recent months since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in Clallam County, King said.
Some motorists are afraid to stop at the Deer Park rest area because of campers parked overnight in front of the bathrooms, County Engineer Ross Tyler has said.
“It really is necessary to address this at this time because the situation, specifically at the Deer Park rest area, is becoming untenable,” Stanley said.
Jane Pryne, one of two county residents who testified in support of the ordinance Tuesday, said she no longer walks or runs along the Olympic Discovery Trail near the Deer Park rest area.
“I think it’s a safety issue,” Pryne said.
“People are living in tents there and have been there for weeks and weeks and weeks on end. So I won’t walk my dogs by myself, and I won’t run by myself.”
King on Tuesday said the new ordinance put “teeth” in county code.
“We don’t intend on arresting our way out of this problem,” he said.
“We believe that (campers) will, in fact, take the resources that are offered to them and move them into shelter.”
Ed Bowen of Clallam Bay said he did not oppose the ordinance but raised concerns about the designation of the short-term parking zone directly in front of the rest rooms.
“Who in the county is going to do that?” Bowen asked.
“Who’s going to make those shorter time-limit determinations?”
Tyler said the county road department would install the signs and base the short-term parking window on state regulations.
“It is probably going to be 30 minutes or 15 minutes or something like that,” Tyler said.
“We’re going to pattern it after what we find that the state uses in their close-to-the-bathroom parking areas.”
Clallam County took ownership of the Deer Park rest area after it built a highway underpass in 2014 that connects Buchanan Drive to Deer Park Road.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].