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Port discouraging public access to Trestle Beach

'No trespassing' sign put up, but ignored by beachgoers


Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - Beachgoers at Trestle Beach flout the 'no trespassing' sign the Port of St. Helens posted at the unofficial trailhead to the riverside area. The beach was not crowded Tuesday afternoon, but despite the port's efforts, it was far from empty.The Port of St. Helens has posted a new “no trespassing” sign at the railroad trestle off Highway 30 in north Columbia City, which many use to access a Columbia River beach popularly known as Trestle Beach.

The beach, where local families can often be seen on hot, sunny days enjoying the the summer weather, is not a public park. It is the property of the Port of St. Helens, which also owns the adjacent Columbia City Industrial Park.

Craig Allison, the port’s property and operations manager, said of the beach Tuesday, July 29, “Access was never actually completely open.”

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - The Port of St. Helens has posted a 'no trespassing' sign at the entrance to the railroad trestle that gives Trestle Beach its name. Craig Allison, who oversees port properties and operations, said the beach has never officially been open to to the public, but the port is now trying to discourage people from the property due to concerns over littering, trespassing on industrial docks along the beach, and a hazardous parking situation along Highway 30.Although the “no trespassing” sign is clearly visible in front of the trestle, posted to a garbage can and chained in place to a block of concrete, cars and trucks were still parked alongside the shoulder of the highway at the trestle Tuesday afternoon, and several families and couples could be seen lounging on the beach, walking along the wooded trails and playing in the water.

Two men who declined to give their names said they were aware of the “no trespassing” rule, but said they — and many others — simply disregard it.

Aside from posting the sign, Allison said the port is “kind of informally putting out the word that people are going down there at their own risk, and that it’s technically off-limits.”

But, he added, “We’re not going to put up a fence. We’re not going to patrol it 24-7. ... We haven’t contemplated any kind of ... fine structure.”

Chief Michael McGlothlin of the Columbia City Police Department said Monday that police “haven’t initiated any closure.”

“We’ve had a lot of people parking along the shoulder of the road. But we’re not closing or restricting the access,” McGlothlin said, adding, “We don’t have the authority to restrict that access.”

Both Allison and McGlothlin said parking at the beach is problematic. There is no parking lot at the trestle, so cars, trucks and other vehicles typically park alongside the westbound shoulder of the highway — sometimes in a haphazard fashion, with some vehicles parking parallel to the highway, others parking perpendicular to traffic, some backing in, some backing out — on a relatively small area of gravel between the roadway and the railroad.

“Our big concern, especially with high-volume traffic, [is] people entering and leaving,” McGlothlin said. “It fluctuates more so with the warmer weather. Our big concern is for the motoring public, as well as the people who are enjoying Trestle Beach.”

As for why the port is now advising the public against trespassing at the beach, Allison said in addition to the parking concerns, port officials feel the public has been mistreating the beach.

“We’ve had increasing problems that have become apparent with trash and fires and people climbing up on the docks and jumping off,” Allison said. “We started thinking of our liability for the property.”

The port has tolerated public use of Trestle Beach in the past, but Allison said it has “never permitted” people on the docks.

The port and the city have had discussions in the past about the beach becoming a Columbia City park. On its website, the Columbia City Parks Department continues to identify the Trestle Beach area among land it is interested in acquiring.

Allison said there have been no recent developments regarding a land deal between the port and the city, but he expressed openness to the idea. The port, he said, lacks the staffing to administer the beach itself as a public area.