December 26, 2011
Permits in Oregon for Kite Flying

I'm not sure how many of you are still following the discussions about rule changes for beach use here in Oregon. It's confusing and a bit tedious. But it is important to all of us.

  • If you live in Oregon, what happens on our beaches is important to you.
  • If you live in Washington, Idaho or California, you've probably been here and our beaches are important to you too.
  • And if you live somewhere else, you should still care because you want to help friends in the NorthWest, and because rules implemented in our state have a lot to do with what kinds of rules may be implemented in yours...

So here's what's going on.

Oregon State Parks is updating their rules regarding use of parks, the beach, and the permit process. There are actually three different efforts underway for three different sections called "Divisions".

  • Division 21 details what happens on our beaches in general.
  • Division 16 deals with permits
  • Division 30 deals with the relationship between Parks and specific cities.

Many of us were properly concerned last month when the Division 16 (permit ) proposals were issued. The draft suggested that permits would be required for any group or organized event in a state park. We wondered what constituted a "group, an "event" or "organized". We were also troubled by requirements that lifeguards be hired for any activity near water -- like weddings, volley ball, or kite festivals. But mostly we were disturbed by reports that flying larger kites would require permits in the future -- which included a $100 fee, a two-week application period, and proof of insurance (which can be quite expensive).

With little notice, Division 16 scheduled several public hearings and also accepted written comments. Many of you sent letters or emails. And as a result, the proposals were withdrawn for a second drafting. Good!

Meanwhile, a set of proposals have been prepared for Division 21 dealing with general activity on Oregon beaches. These cover all kinds of things from harvesting kelp and cutting firewood, to cars, dogs, and beach fires. And yes, they cover kites as well.

Division 21 is pursuing a more logical development process. The rules were drafted by Parks personnel. Then a public advisory committee was formed to review them. I was asked to serve on that six member committee and spent two days last week going over each proposal. A second draft will be developed and public comment on those rules will take place in January.

A new section is being proposed for non-motorized vehicles and aircraft. It basically says, be safe, be polite, and be respectful of others. But then it goes on to say that aerial activities like paragliding and large kites may be required to request a permit. And this is where I have a problem.

Here's the proposed wording from the first draft:

    736-021-0065

    Non-Motorized Vehicles, Cycles, Unpowered Aircraft, Sails and Other Similar Devices

    (1) A person may operate a non-motorized vehicle, such as a bicycle, skateboard, cycle, scooter, roller or inline skate, and other similar items, or an unpowered or wind-powered aircraft, such as a kite, land sail, or other similar items on the ocean shore.

    (2) A person operating a non-motorized vehicle or wind-powered aircraft on the ocean shore must do the following:
    (a) observe all posted signs and operate such vehicles, aircrafts and devices unless signs prohibit or conditionally restrict doing so; and
    (b) restrict speed and manner of operation to a reasonable and prudent practice relative to terrain, prevailing conditions, equipment, personal capabilities, personal safety and the safety of all other ocean shore users, natural resources, and wildlife.

    (3) A person operating a non-motorized vehicle or wind-powered aircraft on the ocean shore may not do the following:
    (a) disturb or harass wildlife or other natural resources as provided in OAR 736-021-0090; or (b) block access, use, or the safe and uninterrupted passage of others on the ocean shore.

    (4) A written permit from a park manager, natural resource specialist or designated park employee may be required for the following to ensure public safety and access, mitigate recreational conflicts and minimize potential damage to ocean shore resources:
    (a) Air sports that involve taking off or landing on the ocean shore, such as paragliding, hang gliding, unmanned gliding and air ballooning, except hang gliding at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, which does not require a permit; and
    Aerial activities, such as flying wind-powered displays, large kites, balloons and other similar devices that need anchoring to be safely flown.

I have argued that, since everyone is required to be safe, to take notice of terrain, conditions and equipment, and to not block access for other park users, it is poor policy to single out specific recreational uses (ie kite flying) for permits.

I argued that other activities on the beach have a documented history of accidents, injury, or complaints, while kiting has not.

I argued that anchoring is a poor definition of what is a "large" kite.

I argued that consistency is important. This "maybe permit" thing leaves decisions to local parks officials. What is allowed on one beach or one weekend, may require a permit on other beaches and other weekends. And that means when you visit the beach, you have no idea if you need a permit.

And finally, I argued that it is disingenuous to require permits when we know they will not be approved during the summer months. So basically, our activities are being banned.

I'm hoping my arguments and advice was heard and that the proposals will be improved before the hearings begin. We'll see.

A hearing schedule has been published for Division 21:

  • 1/24/2012 - 3:30 PM, North Mall Office Building, 725 Summer St. NE, Room 124 B, Salem
  • 1/26/2012 - 3:00 PM, North Bend Library, 1800 Sherman Ave, North Bend
  • 1/27/2012 - 3:00 PM, Gold Beach City Hall, 29592 Ellensburg Ave, Gold Beach
  • 1/30/2012 - 7:00 PM, Newport Recreation Center (Room 105), 225 Avery Street, Newport
  • 1/31/2012 - 7:00 PM, Cannon Beach City Hall (Council Chambers), 163 E. Gower Street, Cannon Beach

Once Division 21 is addressed, State Parks will return to Division 16 and the rules you have all been commenting on. We'll hope for clarification there as well. I understand I'll be invited to participate in the advisory committee for Division 16 as well and will certainly keep you updated.

Looking for an advocate in the Oregon Legislature? See www.ElectGomberg.com.

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