Minor grumbling has surfaced with the limited access for the public to the South Fork Dock located in the Stand Hatfield South Fork Industrial Park, Port of Willapa.
"We have had issues for quite some time," said Dawn King, Port of Willapa Harbor Auditor.
With the recent sale of 20 acres for the construction of what many are calling a marijuana campus, the port along with the new owner of the space, has to comply with restrictions set in by the Washington State Liquor Control Board when dealing with property associated with the new industry that is cropping up.
"We have had vandalism problems as well as drug problems down in that area for several years," noted King, "We have been trying to limit the public access and utilize it for commercial use only."
The South Port Dock, a part of the Port of Willapa, has never been "open" to the public.
"We have allowed some fishermen to use the dock in the past, but now we can no longer allow that."
The issue has a history as recent as a couple of years ago when the port suffered a vandalism problem that cost them an estimated $250,000 due to the stripping of copper wire and associated damage.
"They did catch the guy that did it, but we were not sure that we would be able to get the port functional again. This was before the sale of the property. After that we posted no trespassing signs, but the public has ignored them," said King.
"Even before that, when the drying shed was utilized for the go-kart club and youth racing, those people also suffered damage and theft. It was just getting to be too much."
For the safety of the clubs and the loss of property, it was determined that limiting access might help the situation, but then the big hit with the copper theft gave the port no recourse but to further restrict the property.
"One local citizen has voiced some concern that he enjoyed taking a morning coffee with his wife down at the dock. But I advised him that there are several other locations that provide just a good of a view along other points of the port and perhaps better to enjoy his morning ritual," said King.
Since the sale of the property, the port retains an easement for access to the port dock, which they can still conduct port business.
"We have an easement that allows the bigger commercial boats to gain access when they are in for repairs, and the new owners have installed some temporary fencing," continued King, "I have had no complaints from any fishermen who once utilized the dock, they understand the situation".
With work currently on-going to the property, the local PUD is looking to increase the power supplied to the acreage, and work is being done on the drying shed, heavy equipment is in the area and it is quickly becoming a construction zone. Contractors have also posted signage that requires the use of personal protective equipment before entering the site.
The use of hard hats, safety boots and glasses as well as high visibility apparel is required with no exceptions beyond the temporary gates. It also notes that any visitors as well as subcontractors must check in to the construction office prior to moving freely in the area.
For now, as it has been in the past, the area is hands-off to the public, as the new business of marijuana starts to take shape.
But with plenty of areas for local fisherman to cast away into the river and several locations to just sit and take a break to enjoy the scenery, it is a small restriction in the larger part of what is now the business of choice in the area.