NEWPORT — Newport City Council will hold a public hearing Nov. 1 on whether to close and lock the gate at the entrance to Big Creek Reservoir during nighttime hours.
City council first considered the question of whether to restrict overnight access to the watershed during its Sept. 7 work session. According to a report to council from Public Works Director David Powell, when the city temporarily closed the watershed and other forest interface zones Aug. 11 due to extreme fire danger, “the public generally ignored the signs and entered the watershed via Big Creek Road anyway.”
Staff installed a gate at the entrance Aug. 16, and permanent residents were given access, Powell reported. The gate was opened after extreme fire danger status was lifted and has remained open since.
“On any given day, the public accesses Big Creek to fish, picnic, hike and other approved activities,” Powell wrote in his Sept. 7 report. “Despite signage, they also camp, leave trash, defecate and enjoy other prohibited uses. The permanent residents report frequent late-night parties, noise, traffic and fireworks. Closing the watershed using the gate would discourage these types of activities.”
During its regular meeting Monday, city council unanimously approved a motion to direct staff to develop a policy or ordinance change to enable the nighttime closures, and scheduled a public hearing on the matter to be held during its 6 p.m. Nov. 1 meeting.
The city would need to arrange with its security contractor, TCB Security Services, to make sure no one was in the watershed before closing and locking the gate at night. The additional service would cost $500 a month. Staff will also look into the installation of a sensor to allow vehicles to exit but not enter, potentially avoiding damage to the gate.