Curry County will post signs at the Bagnell Ferry boat ramp on the Rogue River warning people they are using the dilapidated concrete facility at their own risk.
The informal decision, discussed at a commissioner workshop Wednesday, is a compromise between closing the ramp and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it up to state marine board standards.
The boat ramp is the only one on the north bank of the Rogue River in the 41 miles between Jot’s Resort and Foster Bar, said Commissioner Court Boice, who fought to at least keep it open.
A bill for $750 from the Department of State Lands to reinstate the county’s 15-year permit for the ramp instigated the conversation.
The ramp, located about 4 miles up from the mouth of the Rogue River in Gold Beach, served as launching and landing spot for the ferry that took wagons, and later, vehicles — one at a time — across the river from 1872 until 1932 when the Isaac Patterson Bridge was built, linking Gold Beach to Wedderburn.
County Parks Director John Hopkins said the county has a few other options, including erecting a fee box that might help pay for some of the problems there, installing a gate to keep people out, or sell off the property to adjoining property owners.
A neighbor keeps a log book of how many people use the ramp, said County Administrator Clark Schroeder. Some days, it might just be one, and other days up to five. Parking, too is inadequate, with room for only three vehicles and their trailers.
County commissioners were quick to note the ramp is in horrible disrepair and paying the permit fee could make the county liable for incidents that occur there.
“It is something the public thinks about when they break their boat trailers,” Hopkins said.
He said he thought the county would be hard-pressed to garner any money with a fee box, and again, taking money could mean the county could be held liable for property damage or personal injury.
Removing the ramp would be cost-prohibitive, as well, Hopkins said — starting with the $700 removal permit.
And repair would involve regrading and widening the road and parking lot and widening the launch itself to bring it to state standards.
The only problem with abandoning the ramp, Boice said, is that it is popular with fishing guides and rafting companies and is the only such facility along the north bank of the river.
“I do not want to barricade it; I’m in fierce opposition to that,” he said. “Guys are accustomed to this (being there). I don’t want to see it limited to kayakers and canoers, either, because they don’t pay marine board facility fees.”
Hopkins said state grants are available for repairs, but this ramp is such a low priority on the list, the marine board would likely be out of money before it even got around to considering it. The Army Corps of Engineers might have grant funds available, too, to dismantle it in the name of environmental restoration.
“But then, how much do you want to spend (for matching funds) on a project that doesn’t make us any revenue?” Hopkins noted.
County Attorney John Huttl said if a sign is posted warning people of the inherent dangers of the old ramp, then the county could be protected under state recreational immunity laws. Those laws prohibit someone from suing the county for something that happens on publicly-owned land — particularly if signs are posted.