Unhappy with the Port of Camas-Washougal’s recent decision to eliminate annual launch ramp permits, a group of outspoken Parker’s Landing Marina users said this week they are optimistic they can change the Port commissioners’ minds.
During the Port’s remote meeting on Jan. 19, a group of Clark County residents who regularly use the launch ramp along the Washougal waterfront asked Port commissioners to reinstate the annual permit with a modest fee increase.
The following day, on Jan. 20, the Columbia River chapter of the Northwest Steelheaders group wrote in a Facebook post: “With continued support, (we) believe we can persuade the commissioners to reinstate the annual pass program.”
Port commissioners Larry Keister, Cassi Marshall and John Spencer declined to make any final decisions on the matter during their meeting on Jan. 19, citing a desire to collect more information. Instead, the commissioners asked Port staff to generate a list of recommendations and agreed to vote on the issue during the next Port Commission meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 2.
“We’ve soaked up all of this input, and we’ve received a lot of written and telephone input, and I think everybody has a better understanding of the operational needs and why these changes were proposed in the first place,” Marshall said. “We received some really thoughtful input, suggestions and ideas and examples of what other ports are doing, and that’s really appreciated.”
Port commissioners agreed to eliminate the annual permits during their June 16, 2021, meeting. Instead, users would have to pay a $7 daily fee every time they want to launch their boat from the marina’s ramps. Before this, the Port had offered annual passes for $50 – and for $35 for seniors.
Many marina users who urged the Port commissioners to reconsider said they would see incredible cost increases without the annual permit option.
“Extrapolating this year what I launched last year, (I would see) about a 520-percent increase in my launch fees. That is huge for me. I am a senior on a fixed income,” said Washougal resident Keith Hyde, a member of The Fallen Outdoors, a nonprofit organization that facilitates outdoor trips for veterans and active-duty military members, and the Columbia River Chapter of Northwest Steelheaders, a group of anglers dedicated to the conservation of steelhead and salmon and advocating for public access.
“I’m hoping that you would look at reestablishing those programs with some kind of moderate increase … that could facilitate the Port’s need for additional funding but not to the extent that we’re at currently. … I’m truly hoping we can come together to find a much needed reasonable and commonsense solution to this problem.”
Port director David Ripp confirmed finances played a part in the Port’s decision.
“We’ve noticed over the last five years that the revenue side of the marina is not keeping up with expenses,” Ripp said. “Our operating revenues have increased by 24 percent, but our operating expenses have increased by 35 percent. We try to stay up with inflation; this last year we had a 10-percent increase in our lease rates for our entire moorage of the marina, and we’re most likely going to have another increase to try to keep up and maintain those expenses. We’re trying to operate and act responsibly to maintain our assets. … We’re not trying to be greedy, by any means, but we looked at (this change as a way to generate) additional funds for the port.”
Ripp also said the annual permits did not allow Port staff to “track how much wear and tear is on our docks and the number of launches that are taking place.”
“That is one of the big questions that is asked when we’re applying for grant money,” Ripp said. “Also, there’s a lot of administrative time that takes place to issue a permit, from filling it out, the accounting and the auditing. And whoever’s working (has) to go out and look at the trailers and pickups to see if they have a permit.”
Washougal resident Mike Amodeo owns Amodeo Fishing NW, a guide business that provides free fishing trips for active-duty military members and veterans, and is a member of The Fallen Outdoors and Northwest Steelheaders.
He told Port leaders that, because he uses the Port of Camas-Washougal ramps “between 60 and 80 days a year, if not more,” he will have a 500-percent increase in his expenditures in 2022 if the Port commissioners do away with the annual permit.
“I think that’s pretty excessive,” he said. “If the Port (hasn’t) increased their launch fees for annual use over the past decade, I’m not opposed to a general increase. But to make it a daily rate would make my costs go through the roof. Our costs for everything … have astronomically skyrocketed, and this … makes it difficult for us to provide free fishing trips for veterans.”
The marina users also requested the Port add a line item to its annual budget that includes costs for maintenance and repairs for the launch ramps, parking lot and docks.