Gardner — Fran Reynolds noticed a slight increase in hunting around her home overlooking Discovery Bay in 2018. Today, shootings have reached a level that she and her neighbors believe has made the area dangerous to people, pets and livestock.
“One hunter sent his dog into a neighbor’s yard to retrieve a goose he had released,” said Reynolds, who has lived in Gardiner since 2014.
“One of the neighbors said she could hear a bullet whizzing from her ear when she was outside.”
Uncontrolled waterfowl hunting, the redevelopment of Gardiner’s boat ramp, and illegal activity top the list of concerns in this community of about 350 people on the western edge of Jefferson County.
A Monday night meeting drew more than 40 people to the Gardiner Community Center where they inquired for over 90 minutes and expressed their concerns to Jefferson County 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton; Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Knoll; and Port Townsend Executive Director Iron Berg and Deputy Director Eric Toyos.
There is no filming area
Reynolds is leading efforts to create a no-fire zone in Gardner that would prohibit the firing of firearms except in limited cases, such as protecting the home and by law enforcement.
According to a petition signed by 20 people and submitted to Jefferson County in February, the proposed rectangle-shaped no-firing zone would extend along approximately 1,800 feet of Dungeness Bay’s shoreline from east to west and extend about 500 feet to the south.
It will include the boat ramp area, parking lot, wetland and lake.
The lake is an important destination for fishermen, and is a popular destination for waterfowl, although Reynolds emphasized that Gardiners are not seeking a ban on fishing.
“Legal hunting with a license and with the owner’s permission will still be permitted,” Reynolds said of those areas outside the proposed shooting zone.
Jefferson County commissioners are expected to hold a special workshop at 5 p.m. Tuesday to determine how to proceed with the petition. The meeting link will be posted on the Jefferson County website at least 24 hours in advance.
In addition to Gardiner’s petition, two no-fire petitions filed by the Cape George Colony Club of Port Townsend Homeowners Association are also expected to be considered.
The Port of Townsend Gardner boat ramp is the only public launch on Discovery Bay. Time, ebb and flow, and extensive use have all left their mark.
Deep and wide cracks, deteriorating surface and missing large pieces of concrete. Boaters report that their trailers stop or become damaged when entering or exiting the water.
Commercial fishermen use the ramp to access the bay although there is a sign clearly indicating that it is for recreational purposes only. Residents said the parking area in the south has become the site of illegal activities such as fireworks, camping and drug use.
Complicating the solutions to problems related to the slope is the intertwining of jurisdictions that oversee the different elements in an area of less than 1.5 acres.
The Port of Port Townsend runs down the slope on the north (bay) side of the Gardiner Beach Road. Jefferson County is responsible for the Gardiner Beach road that is used to access it. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife owns the ramp parking area and portable toilet, but the county maintains them. The beach on both sides of the cliff is privately owned.
Even the ramp itself is divided: the port has the upper part of the way to the waterline but runs the lower half under the easement which limits recreational use and requires proper maintenance.
What is not broken down is the damage that spans the entire length of the ramp and cannot be repaired. Replacement is the only option.
The port’s ramp development project includes the removal of the existing ramp and the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant one.
An access wedge next to the new ramp and a seasonal grated roof buoy will greatly improve accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as anyone else using the facility.
Berg said that survey, design and permitting will take place this year, and the best result is that construction will begin next summer. However, the original financing cost of $674,857 may have to be revised.
“Inflation has been brutal,” Berg said. If we are looking to build this in 2023, this number is unlikely to be accurate. Maybe it went up.”
Among the Gardiner community members’ concerns about the new and improved boat ramp, that it would prove to be too large and popular, leading to more people, traffic and problems, as well as concerns that construction could be expedited.
“It definitely needs an upgrade,” said Jodi Lynn, who lives five doors down the slope. “But we have concerns about traffic management and use.”
The message: Make it cute, but not too cute.
Listen Berg and Toze.
“The biggest takeaway I took from the community meeting is that we need to get the new facility, but to keep it as minimal as possible to be serviceable. And that is exactly the direction we are giving the design team,” Berg said.
“We need to achieve the project goals, to be allowed, and to meet the ADA [requirements]but ask for it again as often as possible.”
Lynn said she appreciates Berg and Toys taking community input seriously.
“Minimum refactoring so it is ADA compliant and secure. That’s what we really want,” she said.
In addition to illegal activity in the boat ramp area, abandoned vehicles on the side of the road and reports of intruders are indications to some Gardiner residents that their small and quiet rural community is facing major problems in the city.
Last year, Lindsey Soha, who lives in the same house on Gardiner Beach Road where she grew up, encountered an intruder in her home.
“It was a man and he was in our bedroom and I was confused,” she said. “I was like, What are you doing? Then he ran towards me and I shut the door. I ran in one direction and ran in the other.”
Knoll said that based on reported statistics, there has been no “crime wave” in Gardiner, but he encouraged residents to contact the mayor’s office when they see suspicious activity.
“There are a lot of vacation homes here that are empty a lot of the time,” Knoll said. “People are dumping, burglarizing and even living in homes. If you contact us about it, we have to respond.”
Paula Hunt is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Angeles.