City opts to remove ban on fishing from Memorial Park dock, despite some concerns about conflicts with boaters

SPOKESMAN PHOTO - For more than 20 years the Memorial Park dock has been reserved for boat-related activity only. Fishermen hoping to use the Memorial Park boat dock can rejoice, while boaters may need to reassess their use of the dock.

This is because Wilsonville City Council voted unanimously to remove fishing restrictions at the Memorial Park boat dock during a meeting Monday, April 16.

Wilsonville staff initially recommended to the council to allow fishing from Oct. 1 to April 30 but, after Mayor Tim Knapp advocated for removing restrictions enitirely at a March work session, they provided the council with several options: maintain the current prohibition of fishing at the dock, allow fishing outside of peak boating season or allow fishing throughout the year.

Knapp preferred the latter option, due to his philosophy about the role of government as well as his observation that the Memorial Park dock is rarely, if ever, crowded with boats. He also believes that fishermen and boaters can sort out potential conflicts amongst themselves.

"My experience over the years is that if there's too many boats, fishermen will go somewhere else because you can't have that much luck fishing if there's too much noise and too much activity going on. That's not to say there's never a conflict because sometimes there is," Knapp said. "My personal view is it's not up to government to try to pass laws to try to tell people how to conduct every aspect of their daily lives. To me, this falls into that category."

At the March work session, Wilsonville Parks and Recreations Director Mike McCarty indicated that fishing and boating conflicts could occur but he is not sure to what extent.

"I don't know what the interference would be for the boaters. It's never been allowed for 20 years. I know there are a lot of boats out there starting in May and there are quite a few that tie up there. I could see that being problematic," he said.

Wilsonville City Councilor Charlotte Lehan initially expressed support for the option to permit fishing from October through April.

"It's always good to start out with the smaller thing to make sure it works without too much conflict," she said before ultimately voting in favor of the council's decision to remove restrictions entirely.

Scott Starr, though, agreed with Knapp from the start.

"Especially kids, I want them to have a chance to interact more with the water," Starr said. "I would love to see fishing all year round so they could do that if they wanted."

Councilor Kristin Akervall is not an avid fisher but was surprised to learn about the popularity of fishing professed in a recent Parks and Recreation survey.

"I would be curious in wanting to serve that (need) and see what happens from there as something that could be revisited and reevaluated or adjusted as needed," she said.

The City of Wilsonville received a grant from the Oregon State Marine Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to rebuild the boat dock in 1996, and the agreement stipulated that Wilsonville must outlaw fishing, swimming and diving at the dock. However, the agreement expired last year — giving Wilsonville discretion to change regulations. Wilsonville councilors and staff briefly discussed the idea of allowing swimming and diving at the dock at the March work session but decided against the idea.

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