The waterfront recreation season started later than usual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and periods of poor air quality from wildfires compromised use in late summer. Yet despite these challenges, the Hood River Waterfront experienced one of the windiest and busiest summers on record, with businesses reporting “a good year.”
Numerous changes were made to comply with Governor Brown’s Stay Home orders in response to the pandemic, which meant concessions opened late. Still, influxes of local residents and visitors appeared at the waterfront, causing Port staff to step-up response to promote social distancing and safety. Parking availability was reduced at the Event Site and North First Street. Only season pass holders were allowed to park at the Event Site on weekends in July and August, helping spread people out towards Waterfront Park, The Hook and Marina Beach. As a result of efforts, the waterfront remained open for people’s enjoyment, and all areas experienced record usage. Of course, all events, including picnic shelter reservations, were cancelled for the summer due to the pandemic.
In September, wildfire smoke from regional fires closed down waterfront concessions for two weeks, and most people stayed inside for this period of time. The Port opened Lot 1 to overnight RV parking for wildfire evacuees.
Steve Gates Memorial
Long-time local business owner and community leader Steve Gates lost his battle with cancer in November 2019. Known as a pioneer in watersports industries, Steve was also a mentor and coach in various youth programs. His passion was infectious, and he led by example with a strong work ethic and caring, friendly personality. Since his passing, a group of local friends and business people have worked on a fitting memorial installation along the Waterfront Trail at Frog Beach bordering Nichols Basin.
The memorial was designed by Walker Macy architect Mike Zilas with input from the Port and the volunteer group. The Port Commission approved plans to construct a group seating area, and local contractor KD Bockius was awarded the bid. Targeted completion date is March 2021. Project goals are to properly memorialize Steve and enhance the Hood River Waterfront by providing additional seating, an area for reflection, and appreciation for our community and the people and places that inspire us.
In October, all Port waterfront concession agreements expired. The Port requested letters of interest for businesses seeking five-year concession permits to operate on Port property. Applicants were evaluated on business history and experience, operating plan, compliance, presentation, and staff training plans.
Food Cart permits were issued to the Sandbar Café and The Downwinder. Waterfront Seasonal Concession School, Rental and Lesson permits for the 2021-2025 term were issued to: Big Winds, Brian’s Windsurfing Kite and SUP, Cascade Kiteboarding, Gorge Kiteboard, Gorge Paddle Center, HR SUP and Kayak, Kite the Gorge, New Wind, and Oregon Kiteboarding. Seasonal concessions are allowed to conduct business April 15-October 15 annually for the term of the agreement.