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Boat launch, boat docks and Sporthaven Beach parking lot remain open

Port of Brookings Harbor commissioners temporarily closed the Beachfront RV Park but kept open access to Sporthaven Beach, the boat launch and boat docks during a special meeting Tuesday morning, March 24.

“It is difficult to have to make these decisions,” said Commissioner Chairman Roy Davis. “We are publicly elected officials and we have to make these decisions to try and do the best we can. Please be kind and courteous to our Port staff because they are out there on the front lines, there are a lot of people out on the front lines and I would ask everybody to please be kind and courteous to those people.”

On Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown directed people to “stay-at-home” as much as possible or face Class C misdemeanor charges through May 8 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Also Monday, March 23, Oregon State Parks System closed its campgrounds and day-use areas to the public through May 8 after initially stating they would do so on April 3.

Brown’s order came after a mostly sunny weekend that saw people not staying at home and practicing social distancing.

Following the unanimous vote, 4-1, Port officials informed people at Beachfront that Wednesday it would be closed through May 8 and they had to leave. Port Manager Gary Dehlinger said they would cancel any future reservations and would be giving refunds.

Commissioner Vice Chairman Richard Heap, who voted no, was in favor of more stringent action — closing the boat ramps but allowing moorage holders access to remove their boats, and was inclined to close the Sporthaven parking lot and beach access.

“It is a lure and an attraction,” Heap said. “It does provide people an opportunity to come to our community and use that beach. I don’t think that assuming just locals are going to show up is completely appropriate. I’ll agree temporarily but if it gets out of hand we are going to have to shut it down.”

“We will revisit if necessary,” said Davis. “I do not recommend closing the beach access. My recommendation to the board would be to not close public access to the beach or the parking spots along the beachfront. Only our RV park should be closed down.”

Also, closed was the fishing pier near the U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River. The fish cleaning station remains open. Signage about the closures and social distancing was in place Tuesday afternoon.

The special meeting was called after the RV park and Sporthaven had a busy weekend, despite recommendations by Gov. Brown.

“Over the weekend we had a huge gathering at our RV park,” Dehlinger said to the commissioners. “We estimated over 60 to 70 percent occupied. The public parking spaces were near full capacity. So, there was quite a crowd at our RV park this past weekend probably because the weather was good and spring break type of thing. Pretty big hoopla about our RV park being open.”

There was some confusion about if the beaches were still open and if fishing was being allowed following Monday’s order from the governor.

State Rep. David Brock Smith (R-District 1) called into the meeting and said beaches were still open and that fishing and hunting for that matter were allowed as long as people could so while also abiding by social distancing guides.

The commissioners unanimously approved, 5-0, Smith’s resolution on behalf of the Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus that asks the governor to include a temporary closure of motel, RV and campground stays of less than 28 days to discourage visitors from staying overnight at the coast during the stay-home order.

As of March 24, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brookings or Curry County, but there were 209 confirmed cases in Oregon and eight deaths related to the virus.

“This is not a good time for all of us,” said Commissioner Sharon Hartung. “We have to try to get through this the best we can and also protect our Port staff as well.”

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