Rivergrove council votes to keep existing boat ramp hours
Rivergrove's City Council voted Monday to keep the Stark boat ramp open with no changes to its operational hours, capping off a debate over what Mayor Heather Kibbey described as the hardest issue the council had ever faced.
After voting unanimously to keep the hours unchanged, the council briefly discussed ideas for possible new signs to help notify visitors about ramp rules and nearby parking restrictions. The group also continued making plans for a volunteer community clean-up day for the ramp, which was one of the most popular suggestions among attendees at a previous meeting.
A specific date was not chosen, but the councilors indicated that the clean-up day would likely be in October.
The public ramp predates the incorporation of Rivergrove. A single-lane access road branches off from Dogwood Drive opposite a park and passes between two residential houses to reach the ramp to the Tualatin River.
The ramp has elicited complaints in the past from nearby residents because of noise and littering; in 2011, the City restricted the ramp's open hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (8 p.m. in the winter) and added a gate with a lock at the entrance to the access road.
But an exceptionally busy couple of weeks in July prompted a few nearby residents to go to the City Council with renewed complaints, and the council responded by closing the ramp on the two subsequent weekends and scheduling a public hearing about the ramp at its next meeting. Nearly 40 residents of the small city gathered at Lloyd Minor Park two weeks ago, just across the street from the boat ramp, to debate its future.
Most nearby residents stressed that they didn't want the ramp to be closed, but asked for new restrictions to discourage a number of reported nuisances such as littering, noise pollution, nighttime use, drinking, marijuana use and oversized boats and trailers blocking the ramp and surrounding driveways.
Significantly more residents testified in opposition, and the hearing continued until after dark. The meeting adjourned before the council reached a decision, and Monday's follow-up meeting was scheduled specifically for council deliberations about the ramp.
Kibbey and Councilor Brenda Ruble took the lead on Monday in addressing several of the questions and issues that were raised at the previous meeting and sharing the results of the council's research into each topic.
Ruble began by stating that the council had acted inappropriately by closing the ramp in July, and that the group had moved too quickly to address what had been seen as a pressing safety concern.
"I think what's happening is July Fourth is a busy week, especially this year," Ruble said.
Several of the possible regulations that were floated at the previous meeting turned out to be impossible, Ruble said. For example, the City can't impose a limit on the size of boats allowed on the ramp — although, Ruble noted, larger boat trailers often have to pull onto the field in Lloyd Minor Park in order to align themselves to back down the ramp, and the City could unofficially restrict those boats by placing boulders at the edge of the field.
Rivergrove also can't regulate the type of uses on the dock, Ruble said, so the City still needs to allow fishing and other uses that don't specifically involve river ingress and egress.
Several councilors had volunteered to perform an unofficial traffic study by taking hour-long shifts to count the cars using the ramp and passing through on Dogwood. They saw an estimated average of only 40 cars per day, she said, compared to roughly 3,600 cars that travel down nearby Childs Road.
Ruble said the councilors also reached out to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and other government agencies for advice, but found that the City likely wouldn't be able to expect much help in non-emergency boat ramp situations. Instead, she said, the City should focus on trying to better educate ramp users about the existing rules and hours of operation.
"Anything we decide, we have to be able to enforce," she said. "Our main line of attack needs to be through education."