Paula Hunt/for Peninsula Daily News
Gardiner residents have filed a petition in Jefferson County to create a no shooting area tht would prohibit the discharge of firearms across and around the lagoon and wetlands managed by state Fish and Wildlife that is a popular gathering spot for migratory birds.

Gardiner mobilizes around hunting, public boat ramp

Residents want no shooting zone

By Paula Hunt

For Peninsula Daily News

GARDINER — Fran Reynolds noticed an uptick in hunting around her home overlooking Discovery Bay in 2018. Today, the shooting has reached a level that she and her neighbors believe has made the area dangerous for people, pets and livestock.

“One hunter sent his dog into a neighbor’s yard to retrieve a goose he shot,” said Reynolds, who has lived in Gardiner since 2014.

“A neighbor said she could hear a bullet whiz by her ear when she was outside.”

Unchecked waterfowl hunting, the redevelopment of the Gardiner boat ramp and illegal activity head the list of concerns in this community of some 350 people on the western edge of Jefferson County.

A meeting on Monday night drew more than 40 people to the Gardiner Community Center where for over 90 minutes they queried and voiced their concerns to District 3 Jefferson County commissioner Greg Brotherton; Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole; and Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Eron Berg and Deputy Director Eric Toews.

No Shooting Area

Gardiner residents regularly collect spent shotgun shells left by hunters during waterfowl season. (Paula Hunt/for Peninsula Daily News)

Gardiner residents regularly collect spent shotgun shells left by hunters during waterfowl season. (Paula Hunt/for Peninsula Daily News)

Reynolds has been leading the effort to establish a no shooting area in Gardner that would prohibit the discharge of firearms except in limited instances, such as to protect one’s home and by law enforcement.

According to the petition signed by 20 people and filed with Jefferson County in February, the proposed rectangular-shaped no shooting area would run along about 1,800 feet of the Dungeness Bay shoreline from east to west and extend about 500 feet to the south.

It would include the boat ramp area and parking lot, wetlands and a lagoon.

Significantly for hunters, the lagoon is a popular destination for waterfowl, although Reynolds emphasized that Gardiner residents were not seeking a hunting ban.

“Legal hunting with a license and with the permission of the owner would still be allowed,” Reynolds said of those areas outside of the proposed no shooting area.

Jefferson County commissioners are expected to conduct a special workshop at 5 p.m. Tuesday to determine how to proceed with the petition. A link to the meeting will be posted on the Jefferson County website at least 24 hours beforehand.

In addition to the Gardiner petition, two no shooting area petitions filed by the Cape George Colony Club homeowners association in Port Townsend also are expected to be considered then.

Boat Ramp

The Port of Port Townsend Gardner boat ramp is the only public launch on Discovery Bay. Time, tides, and extensive use have left their mark.

Deep fissures and missing chunks of concrete mark the Gardiner boat ramp that was constructed during the Johnson administration. (Paula Hunt/for Peninsula Daily News)

Deep fissures and missing chunks of concrete mark the Gardiner boat ramp that was constructed during the Johnson administration. (Paula Hunt/for Peninsula Daily News)

Deep, wide cracks fragment its degraded surface and large chunks of concrete are missing. Boaters have reported their trailers getting stuck or damaged when entering or exiting the water.

Commercial fisherman use the ramp to access the bay even though a posted sign clearly indicates it is for recreational purposes only. The parking area to the south has become a site for illegal activity such as fireworks, camping, and drug use, residents said.

Complicating solutions to problems related to the ramp is the tangle of jurisdictions that oversee the various elements in an area of less than 1.5 acres.

The Port of Port Townsend manages the ramp on the north (bay) side of Gardiner Beach Road. Jefferson County is responsible for Gardiner Beach Road that is used to access it. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife owns the ramp parking area and portable toilet, but the county maintains them. And the beach on either side of the ramp is privately owned.

Even the ramp itself is divided: The port owns the top portion from the road to the waterline but manages the lower half under an easement that limits use to recreational purposes and requires it be adequately maintained.

What isn’t divided is damage that runs the entire length of the ramp that cannot be repaired. Replacement is the only option.

The port’s development project for the ramp includes removing the existing ramp and constructing one compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

An access wedge next to the new ramp and a seasonal grated deck float will significantly improve accessibility for those with disabilities, as well as everyone else who uses the facility.

Berg said that surveying, design, and permitting will happen this year with the best outcome being construction beginning next summer. The original $674,857 funding cost may have to be revised, however.

“Inflation has been brutal,” Berg said. “If we’re looking at hopefully building this in 2023, it is unlikely that number is accurate. It has probably gone up.”

Among the worries Gardiner community members have had about a new and improved boat ramp was that it would prove to be too big and too popular, leading to more people, traffic, and problems, There was also apprehension that construction was being rushed.

“It absolutely needs an upgrade,” said Judy Lynn, who lives five doors down from the ramp. “But we have concerns about managing traffic and its use.”

The message: make it nice, but not too nice.

Berg and Toews listened.

“The biggest takeaway that I took from the community meeting is we do need to have the new facility, but to keep it as minimal as possible to be serviceable. And so that’s exactly the direction we’re giving to the design team,” Berg said.

“We need to meet the project objectives, be permittable, and meet ADA [requirements], but dial it back as much as possible.”

Lynn said she appreciated Berg and Toews taking seriously the community’s input.

“The minimum rebuilding so that it’s ADA compliant and safe. That’s really what we want,” she said.

In addition to illegal activity in the boat ramp area, abandoned vehicles by the side of the road and reports of prowlers are indications to some Gardiner residents that their small, quiet rural community is acquiring big city problems.

Last year Lindsey Soha, who lives in the same house on Gardiner Beach Road where she grew up, confronted an intruder in her home.

“It was a guy, and he was in our bedroom and I was so confused,” she said. “I was like, what are you doing? And then he ran at me and I slammed the door. I ran one way and he ran the other way.”

Nole said that based on reporting statistics there there was no “crime wave” in Gardiner, but he encouraged residents to call the sheriff’s office when they see suspicious activity.

“There are a lot of vacation homes here that are empty a lot of the time,” Nole said. “People case out houses, burglarize them, and even live in them. If you call us about it, we have to respond.”

________

Paula Hunt is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Angeles.

Gardiner residents have filed a petition in Jefferson County to create a no shooting area tht would prohibit the discharge of firearms across and around the lagoon and wetlands managed by state Fish and Wildlife that is a popular gathering spot for migratory birds.

Gardiner residents have filed a petition in Jefferson County to create a no shooting area tht would prohibit the discharge of firearms across and around the lagoon and wetlands managed by state Fish and Wildlife that is a popular gathering spot for migratory birds.

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