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Oct. 30, 2020

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Clark Asks: Can you fish from Grant Street Pier?

Vancouver forbids activity due to safety concerns, official says

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Kobe Lee, left, and Camille Cowles of Vancouver walk along the Grant Street Pier. The spectacular Columbia River overlook might seem like the perfect place to cast a fishing line, but a city official says the pier’s height makes fishing unsafe.
Kobe Lee, left, and Camille Cowles of Vancouver walk along the Grant Street Pier. The spectacular Columbia River overlook might seem like the perfect place to cast a fishing line, but a city official says the pier’s height makes fishing unsafe. Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Vancouver resident Dan Seaverns asks: Will fishing be permitted from the pier at the new waterfront development?

It’s proven to be a popular question, ranking second in a recent round of reader voting for The Columbian’s Clark Asks feature. And it’s easy to see why: the towering Grant Street Pier structure extends 90 feet outward above the Columbia River, and seems like it could be the perfect place to cast a line on a sunny day.

Unfortunately the answer, in a word, is no.

The buildings along The Waterfront Vancouver are privately owned, but the Grant Street Pier and the surrounding 7.3-acre park are both owned by the city of Vancouver. Parks and Recreation director Julie Hannon said the city doesn’t allow fishing off the pier, primarily for safety reasons.

“The pier in general is pretty far off the water,” she said. “So if you can even catch a fish — which is questionable — it’s just not a safe environment to be fishing in.”

Anglers would need to cast out very long lines, she said, and the pier tends to be a crowded spot, raising concerns about lines and hooks getting tangled or landing on passersby.

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The park areas to either side of the pier provide access to the riverbank, and Hannon said there are no restrictions for fishing off the rocks along the bank — although she added that the city does not encourage people to enter the water along that stretch of the river.

“It’s super fast and super close to the shipping channel,” she said.

Reached for comment last week, Seaverns said he thought the height problem seemed like one of the standard challenges of fishing, much like dealing with changing tide levels at costal piers. Fishing from the rocks on the bank doesn’t provide the same community experience, he added.

“I’ve been to several towns all up and down Puget Sound where they have fishing piers,” he said. “There’s nothing more exciting than having one on the line and people around you wondering (if you’ll be able to reel it in).”

Floating dock eyed

According to Terry Snyder, a city landscape architect who worked on the Grant Street Pier project, the city’s waterfront master plan does include a dedicated fishing pier near the west end of the park, but it has not yet been permitted or designed.

The pier would likely be a floating dock, he said, which would solve the height problem — but it comes with its own set of challenges.

Floating docks still need to comply with the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means the grade of the ramp down to a dock cannot exceed 8.33 percent at any time, he said, but the Columbia River height can fluctuate by as much as 16 feet over the course of a typical year.

“It’s achievable but makes the design and permitting much more difficult and expensive,” he wrote in an email. “We are hoping in the future we can accommodate this fishing pier, but the time frame and budget is not determined.”

Longtime Vancouver residents might remember another fishing spot near downtown: a small city-owned boardwalk on a pier near Joe’s Crab Shack on the east side of the Interstate 5 Bridge. The boardwalk was built in 1991 and was intended to serve as a safe and accessible fishing spot, but it was closed in 2007 due to structural deterioration, and it has remained fenced off ever since.

It also never quite worked as intended, according to Snyder. Back when it was operational, the city heard feedback that the pier was impractical for fishing because it was too high off the river.

Hannon said Parks and Recreation hasn’t forgotten about the structure, but there isn’t an easy solution coming anytime soon.

“(We have) no plans at this point,” she said. “We’re still researching options and looking for funding.”

In the meantime, it looks like Vancouver fishing enthusiasts will need to stick to local ponds and lakes, or venture farther up or down the Columbia River.

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