By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Restroom dispute stalls replacement of Dayton Landing

Marcus Larson/News-Register##River silt from flooding caused by recent heavy rains covers the boat ramp at Dayton Landing park this week. The city opposes a plan to put a non-flush toilet in the park inside the flood zone because the area floods annually.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##River silt from flooding caused by recent heavy rains covers the boat ramp at Dayton Landing park this week. The city opposes a plan to put a non-flush toilet in the park inside the flood zone because the area floods annually.

The boat ramp at the county’s Dayton Landing park, a popular Willamette River access point, is in such a state of disrepair it requires total replacement.

That’s something boaters, other park users, the city of Dayton, the county Parks Department and the State Marine Board all agree on. But it’s about the only thing.

Consequently, although plans have been in the works for years, the project remains stalled. And frustration spilled into the public this month, when Jim Culbert, chair of the county Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, wrote a letter to the editor accusing the city of thwarting work with demands for “a fully developed public park with lighting, a flush toilet and fishing and picnic infrastructure.”

In the letter published in the Nov. 5 News-Register, Culbert said the state Marine Board “has already invested about 1,000 hours and $45,000 on this project on behalf of Yamhill County,” but is now threatening to walk away from the project, because the county has made no progress in implementing the plan the Marine Board approved in 2018.

He blamed county commissioners as well, writing, “Recently, the County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board wrote a letter to the county commissioners seeking their help. It remains to be seen if the commissioners will support us or allow another county park improvement opportunity to be lost.”

Dayton Mayor Beth Wytoski fired back in a letter of her own, appearing in today’s Viewpoints section, and in comments for this story. Noting she’s the only person still in office who participated in the 2018 discussions with the county and Marine Board, she told the News-Register that Culbert’s accusations were frustrating and inaccurate.

Though located entirely inside the city, the park lies entirely under ownership of the county.

Wytoski said the city has asked repeatedly that the county relinquish ownership, but it has refused. She said she has given County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer a tour, and showed her some of the major repair issues, but no action has been forthcoming.

In 2018, the county and Marine Board finalized a plan that included relocating the ramp, upgrading the parking and installing vault toilets — non-flushing toilets that store waste in a tank and must be pumped out periodically.

Dayton objected, Wytoski said, because the proposed restroom lies in an area that floods annually, and the city had an ordinance in place banning vault toilets in flood zones.

She acknowledged the city also asked for a picnic table and a fishing pier, but said she dropped those requests when the Marine Board told her they fell outside its funding authority.

Wytoski said she was frustrated that the county and Marine Board “drafted a plan that was in violation of our ordinance,” but said officials at the time assured her it was a detail that could be worked out.

Instead, she said, “The county came to a city council meeting and asked us to approve a variance for a vault toilet in that location. We opposed that request.”

Wytoski said the city believes its ordinance is a sensible one.

“It’s because of floods,” she said. “It’s not because we don’t like vault toilets. We don’t like them under water.

“We really want to be a good partner. We really want to see a functional boat ramp, safe parking and lighting.”

Wytoski said the county responded to the city’s concerns with promises that the toilet would be pumped out before the fall rainy season, but city officials were skeptical.

“I grew up a block from the park,” she said. “It’s been unmaintained since I was a child.

“I’ll be frank. When nothing has happened for years, when we can’t get them to put gravel in pot holes,” it’s hard to trust such assurances, she said.

In her letter to the editor, she wrote, “The park has been in a state of disrepair since at least the 1990s. In 2012, the boat ramp, now further separated, was generating complaint calls. Nearby residents observed dangerous conditions with pits and deep puddles, and reported damage from gravel flung as some drivers dug ruts turning cookies. Our deputy routinely had to respond to criminal activity, abandoned vehicles and other concerns.”

Wytoski said she has spent years trying to work with county and Marine Board officials on repairs.

While refusing to allow a vault toilet in a flood zone, Wytoski said, the city offered a compromise: It rebuilt a nearby pump station and installed lateral sewer pipes that could be connected to flush toilets in either of two locations just outside the flood zone. It also offered to pay the difference in the cost.

She said it has not been taken up on that offer.

“I don’t know why that’s not a suitable solution,” she said. “No one has told me why that doesn’t work.”

In August, Wytoski was told the state was now proposing to replace the boat ramp without either improving parking or adding lighting, both included in the 2018 plan.

She objected, saying, “There’s a lot of negative activity that happens in that area.” She said the city bears the consequences in the form of policing expenses and the ire of residents.

“Residents don’t understand the ownership, so when there are problems they tend to call the city,” Wytoski said. “We bear a lot of the burden, which makes us feel like we have a lot of the responsibility, when we can’t actually do anything.”

Ben Much, the county’s parks manager, was just hired in January and is trying to play catch-up.

He said, “I’ve been picking up projects that have been half-finished, and this is my next one.” He said he’s still learning about the project, and working on scheduling a meeting with Dayton city officials to hear their side of the story.

“I think it was Brett Henry, two parks managers before me,” who started the project, Much said.

Henry helped develop the 2018 plan, and told county commissioners in March of that year that he’d worked with the state Marine Board to secure a grant. He said he’d come up with a plan that included 15 parking spaces for boat trailers, and leaving the old ramp in place for use by canoeists and kayakers.

The entire plan was projected to cost $585,000, Henry told commissioners.

Much said funding was in place. “The Oregon State Marine Board gave us a half million grant, and then the county was going to match,” he said.

Much said installing a flush toilet wouldn’t work “because it’s really expensive, and then you have to pump it up the hill.” However, Wytoski said the city was prepared to fund the extra expense and handle the operational end.

“Politically I think this thing has kind of gotten out of hand,” Much said. “At this point, we’re just focusing on getting that boat ramp fixed and then worrying about the rest of the park later.”

Popular with boaters, the park is connected by a footbridge to Alderman Park, on the other side of the river. The Palmer Creek Trail, developed by volunteers recruited by the Dayton FFA, connects the park to the local elementary school and adjacent neighborhoods.

Much said he has heard that the city would prefer to take over management of the park.

Wytoski concurred. Whether that’s by ownership or by lease, she said, “We would prefer the city have some say in its ownership. Mostly, we just want a functional park.”

Comments

Flex5796

We have launched off that ramp for years and it has become so unsafe. The last time actually broke the axel of our small boat trailer. It is sad that it is in such disrepair. It is one of a few water paths on the All Trails app that is pictured and is a beautiful area.

Erin C.

Another example of Berschauer's absolute incompetence at her actual job, and complete lack of interest in serving the county. Not having a pit toilet in a regular flood zone sounds like an absolutely reasonable concern.

Culbert

I am uncertain the current Dayton Landing boatramp repair proposal from the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) includes "total replacement" as stated in this article. The lower end certainly does need replacing, and would be done.

Also, contrary to this article, Dayton city officials and Yamhill County Parks representatives are in complete agreement that the current OSMB repair proposal should go forward. As a result of a meeting held on Nov 18, we all agreed to move forward and begin the permitting process. We still have a ways to go with this proposal, and as of right now funding is not yet assured.

Also, the toilet is not currently an issue, as Dayton and the county have made some provisions to eventually have a flush toilet installed outside the 100 year flood zone. More discussions and agreement will be needed on this aspect to bring it to fruition.

In response to Erin C., Commissioner Berschauer was not in office in 2018 when the pit toilet was proposed as part of the OSMB improvement plan, so she should not be blamed for this. Today, we do not know why that inappropriate vault toilet was included. Unfortunately, all but one of the principal members of the group who began the discussions in 2014-2015 are no longer around, so I suspect that this turnover significantly contributed to the lack of communications between our three organizations, and the resulting confusion.

Yamhill County Parks has high hopes that one day soon Dayton Landing will be restored as the primary boating launch point on the Yamhill River, and later on can be supported by other developed non-motorized boating access points as part of a featured Yamhill Water Trail.

Jean

"County Commissioners sign deal with Russian oligarch to build glorious new MAGA hat factory at Dayton Landing"

Erin C.

In response to Culbert. Commissioners are responsible for doing their job, regardless of the fact that some elements of a project may have started prior to them taking office.

Problem solving is the responsibility Commissioner Berschauer signed up for. That's not just regulated to the problems she's created.

Megmaa

@Culbert - you should be a reporter for the News Register as the story was lacking, it seems, some key points. But I find that the facts in many of the stories are mysteriously missing or misrepresented.