Corps closes Clarkston boat ramp in wake of homeless camp shutdown

Feb. 8—The Army Corps of Engineers is locking the public out of the Greenbelt Boat Ramp and associated day use area in response to the closure of a nearby homeless camp in Clarkston.

A spokesperson for the agency said Wednesday afternoon the area is gated and will remain closed for an indeterminate period of time to guard against a potential "influx of people" and unspecified "safety concerns."

"We sat down and did a risk analysis and we thought there was a potential for safety issues involving not only Corps of Engineers employees but the public," said Dylan Peters, at the agency's Walla Walla District office. "We thought it would be in the best interest of everyone to close down temporarily until the situation settles into a new normal."

The agency's Natural Resources Management Office and a boat and equipment yard are adjacent to the boat ramp. The Corps previously closed Asotin Slough near Asotin and Evans Pond and Golf Course Pond west of Clarkston because of vandalism. Those closures were not announced until Wednesday.

Other public land managed by the Corps, such as Swallows Park, Chestnut Beach, the Lewiston Levee Trail system and the Greenbelt Trail on the west side of the Snake River, will remain open. However, people will not be able to use the Greenbelt Trail to pass through the Greenbelt Boat Ramp and day-use area.

The ramp is used heavily by pleasure boaters during the summer months and is particularly busy in the spring and fall when salmon and steelhead are moving up the Snake River. It is used throughout the year by walkers and bicyclists as an access point for the Greenbelt Trail.

Most of the recreation sites managed by the Corps along the Snake and Clearwater rivers were established as part of the development of the Lower Granite Lock and Dam and serve, in part, as mitigation for lost recreation opportunities caused by the arrival of slackwater in 1975.

The day-use sites are not open to camping. Peters said the agency is authorized to close recreation sites and other public land it manages under certain circumstances.

"Part of what we do here is manage land for natural resources and recreation. We have the ability to close land temporarily and permanently if it's in the best interest of employee safety, public safety and the land itself."

Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.