Fishermen cry foul over pier closure

The Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners is collecting public comment Tuesday regarding the recent nightly closures of the Harper Pier after the curfew it imposed on the popular fishing spot to curb a reported increase in criminal activity sparked an outcry from local fishermen.

According to Chief Operating Officer Tim Thomson, the board had been receiving more complaints recently about rowdiness, vandalism and other incidents and had “acted quickly to stem the trend” by closing the pier from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m., beginning June 21.

“We received a significant number of phone calls from people asking that something be done because it was getting out of hand,” Thomson said at the board’s last meeting July 13.

Since the the curfew was imposed, however, Thomson said the board had received several e-mails and faxes from people disappointed the pier was closed so early, including South Kitsap resident Jason Boddy, who said he took time off of work to address the board last Tuesday.

“Quite a lot of people fish there late at night,” Boddy said, explaining that because of his work schedule he frequently fished at the pier after 10 p.m. “It is an important recreational facility, and there are limited facilities already.”

Boddy also said he believed having fisherman on the pier late at night actually deterred problems, and he felt the vandalism could increase if no one was allowed to fish during those hours.

Commissioner Cheryl Kincer said she agreed with Boddy that the times fisherman were using the pier would not be the time that the vandalism was occurring.

Thomson said he believed it was too early to make a final decision, and suggested the board leave the curfew in place.

“It is best for the commissioners to hear from the public,” Thomson said.

The commissioners agreed, voting to table the issue until the next meeting on July 27.

According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, incident records do not mirror the commissioners’ claim of a recent increase in vandalism. In fact, according to spokesman Scott Wilson, the majority of 911 calls at or around the pier since March were made after June 21, the day the sign was posted, and most originated from one residence on Southworth Drive near the pier.

According to report records Wilson provided, three incidents occurred March 31, including a field interview, a traffic stop and found property, with no incidents recorded for the months of April and May.

The next eight incidents filed with 911 occurred on or after June 21, including an unwanted suspect, two trespass complaints and a fireworks complaint.

Wilson said the Sheriff’s Department did not “put any pressure on the board to impose a curfew, but anything that helps the deputies with a clear-cut rule (regarding who can be on the dock and when) always is to our advantage.”

Thomson said the complaints the board received regarding the pier did not come through the Sheriff’s office but directly from residents, and in particular from one residence adjacent to the pier.

“We felt it was a legitimate complaint and it appeared to us that it was something that needed the attention of the board,” Thomson said. “But we would like to take an opportunity to learn more about the impacts of the curfew, and make a better-educated decision.”

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