Gardiner no-shoot area is denied

Stakeholders pursue different solutions

The Port of Port Townsend has installed a no fireworks sign by the entrance to the Gardiner boat launch ramp to discourage illegal fireworks use that has been an ongoing problem, residents say, along with illegal camping and overnight parking in the lot across the road. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula Daily News)

The Port of Port Townsend has installed a no fireworks sign by the entrance to the Gardiner boat launch ramp to discourage illegal fireworks use that has been an ongoing problem, residents say, along with illegal camping and overnight parking in the lot across the road. (Paula Hunt/Peninsula Daily News)

PORT ANGELES — Gardiner residents who hoped the Jefferson County commissioners would approve their request to establish a no-shooting area to curtail hunting they said posed a safety risk to residents and livestock admitted defeat after two key stakeholders expressed opposition to the plan.

At the same time, problems related to illegal activity in and around the parking lot adjacent to the Gardiner boat launch ramp as well as questions about upgrades to the launch itself, which were raised at a community meeting May 9, are being addressed more to the satisfaction of residents.

A petition for a no-shooting area signed by 20 Gardiner residents and filed with Jefferson County in February asked the commissioners to consider restricting the discharge of firearms near and along the Dungeness Bay shoreline, a lagoon and a road.

At a special commissioners meeting on May 17, Dylan Bergman, wildlife program manager for the Point No Point Treaty Council, objected to the no-shooting zone.

Bergman said that because the area had a low population density and included private property on which only limited hunting could take place, he did not believe a significant safety risk existed.

The day before the meeting, a representative of the Dungeness Bay Land Company, which owns the property on which the lagoon is located, and which had not responded to emails containing the petition and explaining the reasons for it, contacted the commissioners to alert them that it was against the plan.

These factors made the establishment of a no-shooting zone “incredibly unlikely,” said District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton.

Brotherton said he has been working with Gardiner residents and the Dungeness Bay Land Company to facilitate a solution that will address mutual concerns regarding trespassing for the purposes of hunting and indiscriminate firearm use in the Dungeness Bay lagoon area where most of the shooting occurs.

“Some of their communications with me have led me to believe that the desires of the neighborhood are not inconsistent with the desires of the property owners,” Brotherton said of the company.

Crime concerns

Illegal camping, fireworks and partying that generate noise and generate garbage, creating sanitation problems in the parking lot adjacent to the boat launch ramp, have frustrated Gardiner residents for years, they say.

Their request for new signage and better monitoring of illegal activity appears to have had an effect.

Jefferson County Public Works installed five temporary A-frame “no camping” signs in the parking lot, which is owned by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Port of Port Townsend erected a sign stating “no fireworks” near the boat launch.

In an email sent to Gardiner residents on June 30, Brotherton wrote that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office would “work to add emphasis to patrolling the boat launch area and will work to move folks on who are attempting to camp.”

Some Gardiner residents are considering starting a neighborhood watch program. They say it would encourage involvement in protecting the community and offer a more proactive approach to addressing recent crime incidents, including gas siphoning, theft from farm stand cash boxes, and continuing problems related to firearm use.

Boat ramp

The process of replacing the Gardiner boat launch ramp on Discovery Bay is moving ahead as the Port of Port Townsend completed surveys this spring in preparation for applying for permits from Jefferson County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Ecology. Once the permitting is complete, the port can send the project out for bid.

Eron Berg, executive director of the Port of Port Townsend, estimated the best case scenario will have construction of the new boat launch ramp start by late summer 2023.

“This is about as simple a project as there is,” Berg said. “And it was scaled back after community input.”

While pleased that the deteriorating concrete boat launch ramp would finally be replaced, Gardiner residents had expressed their dislike of the size of the new boat launch ramp.

Funding for the project was tied to making it ADA compliant, which required, among other accommodations, the construction of a seasonal floating dock next to the new boat launch ramp that will make access easier for those with disabilities and mobility challenges, but also increases its width.

A larger boat launch ramp, residents said, would attract more traffic than the road and parking area can safely accommodate, as well as encourage continued use by commercial fishing operations of what is supposed to be a recreational facility.

Although pleased that the port did modify the original project design, the extent of its expansion was not to everyone’s liking.

“We understand that funding is tied to having a floating dock,” resident Fran Reynolds said. “But the size of it continues to be a concern.”

Like all Port of Port Townsend boat launch ramps, use of the Gardiner ramp is fee-based — even though there is no mechanism for collecting fees at the site.

Berg said that the port might install an “iron ranger” — a self-pay fee collection station — this year that would operate on the honor system.

The state Legislature approved $540,000 for the boat launch as well as Industrial Development District (IDD) levy funds to complete the $674,857 cost of the project.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at [email protected]

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