New Clallam County park rules proposed; drones and generators addressed

PORT ANGELES — Drones would be restricted in Clallam County parks unless the operator gets permission and a special permit under a proposal commissioners will consider next month.

The proposed ordinance amending county code for general park and fairgrounds rules and regulations would prohibit unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, within or above the 26 parks in the unincorporated county.

It also would establish new quiet hours for generators in campgrounds, expand gate hours at Salt Creek and Dungeness recreation areas and rename two county park properties.

A drone operator could fly a UAV with permission from the county parks director and a special occasion permit, according to an exception clause in the explosives, fireworks, model aircraft and UAV section of the proposed ordinance.

Parks and Fair Supervisor Bruce Giddens told commissioners Monday that drones are becoming increasingly popular in county parks.

“We’ve received verbal complaints about that,” Giddens said in a later interview.

“We’re just trying to head it off before it gets too far.”

A UAV is defined in the proposal as an “aircraft, also known as a drone, without a human pilot aboard.”

Drones are used in aerial photography and are associated with a buzzing sound.

“The flight of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operate with various degrees of autonomy, either under remote control by a human operator or fully or intermittently autonomously by onboard computers,” the draft ordinance states.

Commissioners are expected to call for a public hearing on the proposal next Tuesday. The hearing would likely occur April 11.

The Clallam County Parks Board recommended the proposed changes by unanimous vote at its November meeting, Giddens said.

Quiet hours

Under the proposal, campers would be required to turn off their generators at 9 p.m.

General quiet hours at Salt Creek Recreation Area west of Port Angeles and Dungeness Recreation Area north of Sequim begin at 10 p.m.

“We are adding new quiet hours specific to the use of generators in the campgrounds,” Giddens said in the commissioners’ work session.

“As long as there’s been generators, there’s been complaints by those camping near the generators.”

The proposed ordinance would extend and simplify gate hours at Salt Creek and Dungeness recreation areas.

Under the existing ordinance, gates open at 7 a.m. throughout the year and close at 7 p.m. in the winter, 8 p.m. in March, 9 p.m. in April, 10 p.m. from May through August and 9 p.m. in September.

Under the proposed ordinance, the gates would be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from October through April and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from May through September.

“During the winter months we have parks closing at 7 p.m.,” Giddens told commissioners.

“This makes it difficult for people coming from the I-5 [Interstate 5] corridor getting here in time for that.”

Park managers at Salt Creek and Dungeness recommended new gate closing times, Giddens said.

A citizen recommended the 6 a.m. start in the summer, he added.

New names

The proposed ordinance would name the county’s Eagle Point property at Lake Crescent as Eagle Point County Park and a Thompson Road property on the Miller Peninsula as the Rainshadow Disc Golf Park.

Clallam County maintenance staff, volunteers and a chain gang inmate work crew are building an 18-hole disc golf course on 40 acres of county land west of Thompson Road northeast of Blyn.

Disc golf is played by throwing a Frisbee-like flying disc into a series of elevated metal baskets, or holes.

Baskets have been installed and the tee-pad framework has been completed at the Thompson Road site, county officials said.

Before the Rainshadow Disc Golf Park opens to the public, crews need to finish clearing the 20-foot-wide fairways, install signs and porous rubber mats on the tee pads and build a 20-vehicle parking lot.

Giddens said the goal is to open the disc golf course by the end of April.

The proposed Eagle Point County Park is wedged between U.S. Highway 101 and Lake Crescent on the southwest side of the lake, about a mile east of Fairholme.

There is enough room for three to four vehicles to park on the shoulder of the highway.

The 1.2-acre undeveloped site, which is bisected by Eagle Creek, was donated to the county by the Gund family in 2015 to be used for public access.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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