Kayak park concept moves forward despite zoning issues
AGold Hill man trying to develop a whitewater kayaking park in the Rogue River says he intends to fix alleged zoning violations on his property and has applied for a permit to go legit.
Steve Kiesling said he likely will move his half-dome and boat-storage container to higher ground on his Upper River Road property to address zoning complaints with Jackson County as well as settle with state biologists for illegally cutting blackberries in the river's riparian zone.
In the meantime, Kiesling has hired a planning consultant and plans to seek permits to build a boat barn on the property — the next step in his vision to build a kayak park that he hopes will be a magnet for whitewater boaters worldwide.
"We'll probably move those things across the road and get permits to build a barn," Kiesling said Friday.
"It's getting to the point where this thing has to be by the book and that's a good thing," he said.
A county code-enforcement officer on Nov. 25 sent Kiesling warnings of violations for cutting brush in the riparian zone and for illegally having three structures — a large dome, a shipping container and a solar panel — within the floodplain.
The warnings were issued after the code-enforcement officer inspected the property following receipt of a complaint, county development services director Kelly Madding said.
"We believe there's a violation, based on our observation," Madding said.
Kiesling was told to get a floodplain development permit for the structures by Friday.
Kiesling said he had not filed for the permit and disputed whether the current structures are within the floodplain.
Kiesling also was told to get a riparian zone replanting plan approved by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but he has not done so, said Pete Samarin, an ODFW biologist in Central Point.
Neighbor Tom Collett said he's angered by what he sees as Kiesling flouting land-use laws.
"He should abide by the same rules as the rest of us do, whatever that entails," Collett said. "I don't think he should act like he owns the river and do whatever he wants to do."
Kiesling has joined forces with the city of Gold Hill in creating a whitewater course at the Ti'lomikh Falls area as a haven for kayakers, with hopes that it could one day become a U.S. Olympics training center.
He said he plans to sit down this spring with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of State Lands and others in an attempt to streamline the permitting process.
Kiesling's plans are further complicated because that stretch of the river is part of an area designated as critical habitat for the Rogue's wild coho salmon, which is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The act's rules would require those agencies to consult with state and federal fish biologists about whether the project would illegally harm wild salmon.
Kiesling said he also will discuss placement of kayaking slalom gates in the river. He installed the poles in the Rogue in front of his property last fall but has since removed them and plans to discuss their placement with the Oregon State Marine Board.
Kiesling acknowledged he cut blackberries from a cliff that was used as a viewing area for the King of the Rogue whitewater races held in August. He said he would prefer to install a path there for safety instead of being forced to replant the area.
The county's riparian zone code bans the removal of vegetation within 75 feet of the Rogue's mean high-water mark without an approved replanting plan that requires one native tree or bush for every 8 square feet of land within the zone, Samarin said.
The replanting is required even if non-native and unwanted vegetation such as blackberries is removed, he said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/mtwriterFreeman.