Saturday, September 15, 2012
Hood River showed up in force Wednesday night to make its feelings known on a potential cable park in the Nichols Boat Basin.
Dozens of people took to the podium in front of the Hood River Port Commission to express support or opposition to the project.
At its peak the crowd in the Hood River Inn’s Columbia Room numbered over 100 and was standing room only.
One after another, citizens on either side of the issue, and a few who signed up as neutral, rose to speak their allotted three minutes on the issue.
While the port will continue to accept written public input up until it makes a decision — likely in November — the public comment session offered a chance for many to make their voices heard.
Proponents of the cable park largely focused on the economic upside of the cable park, and on cable wakeboarding as a less costly and more accessible alternative to kite boarding, windsurfing or stand-up paddle boarding.
Opponents focused on what the basin currently is and what it could be if left as a publicly accessibly recreation area.
Those who signed up as neutral gave a wide range of statements, ranging from asking the port to look at what the Naito Development should pay to lease the basin, to raising the Hook as an alternative recreation area.
By the end of the night around 18 more opponents than proponents had taken to the mike, with many of them hanging around until the end of the meeting to speak — by which point the room was about a third full.
Opponents said that spoke to their dedication in opposing the project.
“That says something,” said attorney Brent Foster, who has filed a lawsuit to block the hotel project with which the cable park is associated.
Foster asked those still in the audience who were opposed to the project to raise their hands, and a vast majority of the audience did so.
“The people to whom this really matters have given up their dinners and time with their families and are still here,” he said.
After hearing around three hours of public input, port commissioners said both sides deserved commendation for devoting the time to coming to the meeting to speak on the issue.
“Thank you all for coming,” said Commissioner Rich McBride.
“A big round of applause for Hood River tonight,” said Port Commission President Jon Davies to close the proceedings.
The port is not likely to make a decision on whether to begin lease negotiations with Naito Development until November, but in the interim all five of the commission members are likely to take a trip to Wake Nation cable park in Cincinnati.
The commission will go individually or in groups of pairs and one on an individual trip over the next several weeks.
The trips will be paid for by the port.
According the port’s current timeline the port commission will receive staff analysis of the proposed cable park — without a staff recommendation — at its Oct. 16 meeting and is slated to take a vote on the matter Nov. 6.
The future of the basin has been up for debate since Naito Development proposed a hotel and commercial building at the south end of the basin and a wakeboarding cable park in the basin itself.
The hotel and commercial building were approved by the City of Hood River but are currently being appealed by Friends of the Hood River Water Front — which is also leading the effort to oppose the cable park.