No shooting zone proposed around Skamokawa Vista Park
August 13, 2020
Tent campers at Skamokawa Vista Park recently heard a thunk as something struck a tree and hit their tent.
The object was a bullet, ricocheting from nearby target shooters on private property.
They reported the incident to park officials and the Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Department who investigated, determined that the round came from a large caliber pistol.
And on Tuesday, the county board of commissioners hosted a discussion about establishing a no shooting zone in the vicinity of Vista Park. After the discussion, commissioners suggested staff of Port District 2, which operates the park, could lead a community petition drive to establish a no shooting zone and present the petition to the county commission, which could then take steps to pass an ordinance setting up the no shooting zone.
Sheriff Mark Howie said the incident occurred while deputies were also in the vicinity, firing their weapons at another site.
Upon learning of the incident, officers stopped their shooting and investigated. At the tent site, they heard the sounds of fireworks and gunshots.
Officers searched the area and found brass from spent rounds to the west of the tent site. The officers had been shooting in a different direction at a site that wouldn't have a clear line to the tent site, Howie said.
Officers collected the cartridges and sent the round that hit the tent and rounds from their weapons to a crime lab, which determined the round in question hadn't come from the officers' weapons.
The site where the people had been shooting was very close to the park, Howie said, adding, "To me, as sheriff, it presents a danger to the people in the park and residents of Skamokawa."
Undersheriff Gary Howell added that the sheriff's office has received five complaints this year about shooting in the area.
"That hillside that was logged should be a no shooting zone," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. He explained that Hancock Forest Management and other timberland owners post recently logged land near residential areas as no shooting zones.
The property is owned by people residing in Texas, Howie said; it was logged recently and is fairly open. The owners have allowed the public to use it as a recreational area.
"My suggestion is to have a no shooting zone in the radius of the park of at least 1,000 or so feet," he said.
The procedure, said Commissioner Gene Strong, a retired sheriff, is for the public to present the commission a petition seeking the no shooting zone; county officials can then draft a proposed ordinance, hold a public hearing, and adopt the ordinance.
"I agree with the sheriff," Strong said. "It needs to be done so it's not challengeable."
"Nobody likes restrictions, but when you have people camping close by, it is too close right there," Cothren commented.
In response to a question from Commissioner Mike Backman, Cothren said most of the places where people can shoot safely are on state timberlands, in old rock pits, or down an unused logging spur road.