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Dedication for Nichols Basin Open Space

Let’s Celebrate! Its been a long time coming and it’s time to celebrate a great result at Nichols Basin. The land at the south end of Nichols Basin that was once proposed for a controversial private cable wakeboard park, is now public open space owned by the Hood River Urban Renewal Agency. Join us for the Nichols Basin Open Space Dedication with Hood River Mayor Paul Blackburn this Tuesday, January 26, 12pm, at the west edge of the parcel (next to Hattenauer’s gas station) in Hood River. One of the key objectives of open space will be to restore habitat for wildlife.

This picture is from our December tree planting session, the first of many riparian enhancement events that will bring help bring Nichols Basin back to health. Thanks Columbia Riverkeeper and the community tree planters!

Riparian Habitat Tree Planting! 

Join Friends of the Hood River Waterfront & Columbia Riverkeeper Saturday morning, December 12, at 10AM @ Nichols Basin in Hood River.

Please help us re-plant native riparian habitat on the Columbia River at the Nichols Basin!  This project is aimed at returning riparian cover to an area that has been degraded for decades, yet sits next to important salmon rearing and migratory bird habitat.  Come get an up-close look at what will soon be the City of Hood River’s newest park which will provide habitat and eventually public river access.

As a part of a settlement between Friends of the Hood River Waterfront and Naito Development, Columbia Riverkeeper was given a conservation easement over the riparian area that we are working to restore along the edge of the Nichols Basin.

What to bring: We’ll be planting cuttings of willows, cottonwoods, and red osier dogwoods, so bring a rainjacket, boots and a pair of gloves!  

In order to  have a count of who will be there, please RSVP to let us know you’re coming to lorri@columbiariverkeeper.org.

Hope to see you there!

Breaking News– From the City of Hood River September 8, 2014

Dear Friends- We want you to be the first to know that the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront is very close to reaching a comprehensive agreement with NBW Hood River LLC regarding their development at the south end of Nichols Boat Basin. This is a complex agreement involving five different entities and the lawyers are still working on the legal documents. The agreement will bring the riparian portion of the NBW Hood River property into City ownership, forever protecting it for public recreation and habitat conservation. This new City park will provide another link in our waterfront path and bring the entire shoreline west of the Hood River/White Salmon Bridge under public ownership. We are also pleased to report that NBW Hood River will build the hotel and commercial building above the 100-year floodplain. We appreciate your support these past three years. It’s been a long struggle and the proposed agreement is a true compromise. It allows the development to proceed while conserving an important riparian area along the Boat Basin for all to enjoy for years to come. We will let you know when the agreement is finalized.

We especially want to thank our attorney, Brent Foster for his amazing work.

Thank you again for your generous support!

Linda Maddox President, Friends of the Hood River Waterfront

 

A NEW RIVERFRONT PARK AT NICHOLS BASIN?

We have a great opportunity to craft a brand new park on Hood River’s waterfront! The Port is currently deciding the size and design of a park along the west edge of Nichols Basin.
 
Attend the Port’s first meeting, and tell the Port that you want a new park big enough for multiple uses, a park we can be proud of.
 
When: Tuesday, January 28 (5:30PM)
Where: Port of Hood River conference room
 
Our vision is a 220-foot wide community park with:
  • Ample water access for SUP and kayak launch, swimming, and playing
  • A children’s play area and beach with shade trees
  • A continuous greenbelt that connects to the Event Site via a pedestrian and bike path
  • A contoured and vegetated shoreline with improved salmon habitat (not just more grass for the geese)
THE PROBLEM
 
The Port’s initial plans call for a narrow park along Nichols Basin, adjacent to a giant parking lot and commercial buildings with no green space south of the Event Site in Lot 1. Under the Port’s proposal, an astonishing 81% of the waterfront port area west of the Nichols Basin would be used for parking lots, roads, and buildings. More than 1/2 of the area is dedicated to parking alone.
THE SOLUTION
 
Build a world-class West Edge Park! A 220-foot wide park would support families, recreationists, relaxers, and take pressure off the Event Site. We’ve seen first-hand how the community-built Waterfront Park boosts our local economy. The Port plans to move the existing road along the Basin and re-grade the bank so making a larger park is very possible. We have a choice. More pavement or a bigger park? Click here for our concept park plan
 
Here’s our concept for the Park and Basin:
      What more can you do?
If you have great suggestions for the project, share them with us: hoodriverwaterfront@gmail.com

   

 

    FRIENDS WIN AT LUBA AGAIN Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) for a second time has rejected the Hood River City Council’s approval of Naito Development’s proposed hotel and commercial building and upheld the key claims in the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront’s (Friends) appeal.  Friends had argued to the City Council and then LUBA that the City needed to apply its floodplain development provisions in the City’s Comprehensive Plan to the 20,000 square foot commercial building and 88-room hotel which the Naitos have proposed in the Columbia River floodplain adjacent to Nichols Boat Basin. The Basin is heavily used for public recreation and is federally designated critical habitat used regularly by juvenile salmon. “In 2013 you would think that the Hood River City Council would not allow a major commercial building and 88-room hotel in a major floodplain,” says Linda Maddox with Friends. “But they not only approved the project, but approved it without even applying their own flood protection rules in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. This really defies common sense.” Friends attorney Brent Foster argued the case before LUBA and agreed. “Every few years you can see the effects of the lack of floodplain planning on the evening news when a large flood wipes out poorly planned development on the edge of a river. The City’s notion that it can approve intensive floodplain development without any setback from the river puts water quality and salmon at risk as well as the public and first responders.” If the Naitos or City do not appeal the ruling, the Naito’s project will go back to the City Council which will have the opportunity to either require the project to comply with City’s Comprehensive Plan floodplain protection rules or to modify the project to move the commercial building and hotel out of the floodplain. “The City has tried to force this development through for years instead of just requiring the Naitos to plan a project that can actually be built,” added Maddox.  “It’s really time for both the Naitos and the City to re-think the wisdom of placing a development like this in a floodplain along the Columbia River.” Friends urge the City and the Naitos to revise the project to include a river setback that would protect water quality, juvenille salmon habitat and a public waterfront path.

CITY OF HOOD RIVER PLANNING APPROVAL REMAND HEARING

On Monday April 8th at 6 pm, the Hood River City Council will conduct a remand hearing on the Naito’s plan for a 4-story hotel, retail/office building and 230 space parking lot at the south end of Nichols Boat Basin. Last year, Friends appealed the City’s approval of the project to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) because we believed it did not comply with federal, state and city law related to the floodplain, storm water management and natural resource protection.  LUBA agreed with Friends and remanded the case back to the City for further consideration. These are real issues that the public should be concerned about.  All of the issues are solvable. We believe with design changes the Naitos can be on their way towards constructing a project that meets their commercial goals while protecting public safety and respecting the environment.
 
Issues with Project:
 
We encourage you to come to the meeting on the 8th (City Hall, 211 2nd Street).
Protecting public safety is a basic requirement of responsible land-use planning. Please encourage the City Council to analyze the flood hazard dangers of the development and to make changes that ensure the safety of people and property.

    CABLE PARK UPDATE: November 14, 2012–Port Commission Rejects Cable Park Tonight by a 4 to 1 vote the Port Commission rejected the cable park. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who sent letters to the Port, City and newspaper, signed the petition, went to the Float-in, went to meetings, talked to friends and neighbors and generally supported public access at Nichols Basin. You are what makes Hood River special. November 2, 2012–Port and City Set Final Votes on Cable Park Proposal Final Port Commission Decision Meeting Nov. 14th at 5 pm, Port Commission meeting room City Planning Commission Hearing Nov. 19th at  5:30 pm, Hood River City Hall

 

Come support a public Boat Basin!

 

In a crazy new twist, the Naito’s have amended their proposal. If you thought a cable park that closed off the basin to all other users was a bad idea, what about a cable park that allows other users in the same space during operation? This absurd idea was presented to the Port Commission by the Naitos Tuesday night:

 

“We are dropping our requirement for exclusive use of the basin and the use of a buoy line that would restrict public access to the south end of the boat basin.”

 

Yes, they are seriously suggesting that people can paddle, swim, windsurf and fish inside the cable park while wakeboarders are pulled around the same area on tow-ropes at 18 mph. Does any sensible person really believe that an insurance company would cover an operation that plainly violates Oregon amusement park safety laws?

 

While the Naito’s revised proposal seems to be their answer to concerns about the loss of public access, it is a silly and irresponsible proposal that highlights why the Port and City Planning Commission should reject the cable park plans outright.

 

If you want to see the basin kept open for all users, it is very important that you tell the Port and the City Planning Commission.  Even if you’ve already sent one, send another letter to porthr@gorge.net  (by Nov. 9).

 

If you haven’t yet signed the petition, do it now by clicking the button on the right corner of this page. Numbers matter. So far, opponents of the cable park out-number supporters 2 to 1 in terms of letters to the port and testimony at the public meeting. The only area that we are neck-and-neck is with our dueling online petitions, largely because theirs was posted on international wakeboarding websites so there are lots of “yes cable!” voices from other countries trying to weigh in on our local issue. Please, sign the petition so that your local voice can be counted.

 

 

Negotiation Update:

 

While we were encouraged by the Babitz/Davies plan to restore and enhance the boat basin, it has been a real challenge to turn a good initial concept into something real and enforceable (see HR News Another Voice). There are lots of issues that need to be worked out:  How do we make sure that the cable park isn’t reintroduced next year by the Naitos or another party? How do we make sure the basin is preserved in perpetuity for public access, not leased to another commercial developer for a jet ski school or whatever?

 

So far, however, the Naitos have refused to engage in a normal legal settlement process to even discuss negotiations and its tough to avoid the reality that they want to move forward with their planned cable park.  The Naito’s have tried to criticize Friends for wanting a “confidential” settlement negotiation process, but this is how virtually every legal settlement occurs.  Confidentiality is the foundation of successful legal settlements and the fact the Naito’s won’t agree to such a basic component of negotiation can only be read as a sign that they have little interest in actually dropping their cable park plans. While we have continued to tell the City, Port and the Naitos that we are more than open to discussing a settlement, the upcoming City and Port meetings give Hood River a chance to stop the cable park once and for all. Please join us in encouraging the Port and City Planning Commission to protect public access and deny the cable park at their next meetings. Objections to Upland Development We have appealed the City’s conditional use permit approval of the retail/office building, hotel and parking lot to the State Land Use Board of Appeals. You have probably heard this appeal described by the Naitos as a “frivolous lawsuit.” It is nothing of the sort. There are real issues that the public should be concerned about with the project as proposed. All of the issues are solvable and we believe with a few design changes the Naitos can be on their way towards constructing their project. We believe that in the course of settlement negotiations or a mediation process, all of these issues could be worked through. Here are the main issues (click on each one to get a detailed description):

  1. Stormwater Runoff from the 234 space parking lot
  2. Location of Retail/Office Building in the water
  3. Lack of a true Waterside Path

October 25 UPDATE

Some of you are concerned about the progress of negotiations. We ask you to be patient. While we oppose the cable park, we do support lasting improvements at the basin. The challenge is to agree on something real and enforceable. There are lots of issues that need to be worked out:  How do we make sure that the cable park isn’t reintroduced next year by the Naitos or another party? How do we make sure the basin is preserved in perpetuity for public access, not leased to another commercial developer for a jet ski school or whatever? Also, there are real issues the public should be concerned about regarding the placement of the office/retail building. So far, we haven’t done a good enough job explaining those issues. We will describe them in detail with future posts here, by email and on our website so that the public can judge for themselves. As for having private talks with the Naitos–such talks are the foundation of successful settlements. The Babitz/Davies plan was developed in private talks with the Mayor, the Port President and the Naitos. We like aspects of the plan, but don’t believe it would have gotten anywhere if they weren’t able to confidentially investigate its feasibility before presenting it to the public. An atmosphere of confidentiality allows the parties to explore creative options and compromises with a freedom that is just not possible in public. We have always said that the result of a settlement between the Friends and Naitos will be completely public–you will be able to see exactly the deal both parties have agreed to. If anyone has questions they want answered, please send them our way. We want to make sure you have all the information you need.