Port of Brookings Harbor officials plan to start cracking down on itinerant campers and RVs that keep parking on their property illegally.
“We seem to have a chronic violator,” said Commissioner Richard Heap at a port meeting last week. “When does this problem become a public nuisance so we can tackle it? At some point, it becomes pointless to keep writing citations.”
The port has no policy regarding fines related to any citations, he noted, and asked Port Attorney Martha Rice if it were possible to change that to further deter violators.
“If you don’t have a home, nothing prevents you from sleeping in a car or RV,” she said.
The port has a contract with Knight Security to conduct nightly rounds on its property to deter vandalism, theft and other shenanigans. Its monthly security log from December lists 18 incidents in which RVs and campers were parked there for days on end.
Most of those cited were in the RV park, commercial boat basin, Kite Field and main parking lots.
For one vehicle, it’s the third violation that month. Other items listed on the log include “unauthorized visitors,” which included people camping in the restrooms, panhandling and a parked truck whose driver refused to leave.
Commissioner Wesley Ferraccioli noted the people illegally using the facilities aren’t homeless people.
“One guy, his home is on wheels,” he said. “There’s no overnight camping in the port. We need to implement fines. You don’t pay, they issue warrants, then we arrest them and off they go. Just a suggestion.”
Board President Roy Davis said it costs $10 a night to park overnight at the port in Port Orford, whereas Sporthaven Beach has designated RV areas where people register to use the space.
“No one’s sleeping in the bushes in Port Orford,” he said. “They’re being trespassed, or they can spend $10 and spend the night at the port because they’ve designated a specific spot so they’re able to enforce vagrancy laws. They are full-blown enforced, and they have it (the homeless situation) as bad as we do.”
Under a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision last fall, municipalities cannot cite or arrest people from sleeping on public property — if all area shelters are filled up. But South County has no such shelters, which means those without a place to sleep can do so on public property without being rousted by law enforcement.
The Port of Brookings Harbor is closed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and many who do use the area to sleep are gone by daylight, said Harbormaster Travis Webster.
The city of Brookings is considering an overlay that would allow entities — say, churches, lodges and other community areas — to serve as designated shelter or sleeping areas. In the meantime, it is illegal for anyone to sleep in town parks except between sunset and dawn.
Campers and RVs are supposed to register to use the facilities at Sporthaven Beach. December had a 9 percent occupancy rate — about average for this time of year.
Vehicles and weather-watchers were asked to leave the area last Thursday when high winds whipped up the ocean that in turn, dumped large logs, rocks and other debris throughout the area.
The “dry-camping” area reserved for tents was completely inundated last Thursday with almost a foot of water in some places, the picnic areas were a sodden mess and logs were strewn throughout the day parking and RV area.