Empire Boat Ramp

Coos Bay's Empire Boat Ramp.

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Coos Bay’s boat ramps will no longer be open 24 hours a day.

The city council voted Tuesday to limit the ramps’ use to the hours between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily in a move designed to deter camping, restroom use and vandalism in the areas at night.

“The restrooms at the Empire boat ramp facility have suffered from significant and repeated vandalism over the last year,” city Public Works Director Jim Hossley told the city council Tuesday. “The impact to city resources is compounded given the requirement under the governor's COVID-19 direction that the restrooms are to be sanitized at least twice daily.”

In effect, the change gives the city’s police department more ability to trespass people on the property. Courts have ruled that cities can’t penalize homeless people using public property if there’s a lack of shelter space available – but if someone is on a piece of city property while it’s closed, they can be cited for violating park rules, with a maximum $1,000 fine.

Still, police will have discretion on the scene, according to City Manager Rodger Craddock. That means they could allow individuals who are at the ramps early in the morning to fish to remain on the property, similar to how police often allow early-morning joggers in city parks, Craddock said.

City councilors made another key move in responding to the city’s growing homeless population during their meeting Tuesday, confirming 18 people to the city’s homeless workgroup.

Councilor Stephanie Kilmer, who co-chairs the group with Councilor Drew Farmer, said they received a large number of applications for the group. The workgroup began meeting in February, 2018, but hasn’t been meeting since the pandemic.

The slate of individuals appointed to the workgroup includes representatives from community service organizations, local tribes and other governments, health professionals and the homeless community. The group’s next meeting will likely take place Jan. 28.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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