WINSTON – A boat ramp built last year in Winston that serves as the city’s only access to the South Umpqua River has been nationally recognized for its usefulness, quality and uniqueness, among other features.
“It’s certainly surprising because, first, we didn’t even know they had an award like that, and secondly, we won something on a national level,” Dick Nichols said.
The ramp is in the Harold and Sid Nichols Park, named after Nichols’ father and uncle. The park is west of downtown Winston off Highway 42.
Family members, volunteers and city staff will travel to Portland next month to receive the Outstanding Small Size Project of the Year award from the States Organization for Boating Access.
“My father (Harold) and uncle will probably be smiling from where they are,” Dick Nichols, 84, said. “We feel this is a nice thing.”
The organization’s website states the group is devoted to the acquisition, development and administration of public recreational boating facilities nationwide.
Ten awards are presented annually. The Winston ramp project was judged to be useful, of high-quality, unique, economical and innovative.
City Manager David VanDermark said the Oregon Marine Board nominated the ramp and funded the $460,000 project with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It’s a long-dreamed project,” VanDermark said.
The Nichols family, which has roots in Winston dating back to 1867, donated 13 acres of property to the city several years ago to develop a park.
“They were the fathers of everybody and we wanted to honor our fathers,” Dick Nichols said of his forebears.
He said the idea to include a boat ramp came from his brother-in-law, Joe Merchep, who took up fishing after retiring and joined the Umpqua Fishermen’s Association, which spearheaded the project.
“He even drew it out so when we gave the land to the city we gave them that, too,” Nichols said. “He was a real driving force.”
VanDermark said Roy D. Garren Construction completed the job last year. The concrete ramp is roughly 20 feet wide and 80 to 100 feet in length.
VanDermark said before the ramp was installed, the only river access for boats was seven miles in either direction of Winston.
“The Oregon Marine Board and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are excited about it because it opens up fishery. It also helps search and rescue (teams) have access when they need to drop in a boat,” VanDermark said.
The ramp is mostly used in the fall, winter and spring, when water levels are higher. Power and drift boats are permitted, VanDermark said.
He said construction encountered several challenges along the way, including unexpected required archaeology testing because the area is a prehistoric Native American site. The Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe funded the $13,000 studies.
A problem arose when it was learned during a pre-construction meeting that the ramp was designed in a “no-digging” area. VanDermark said $50,000 worth of gravel had to be placed to raise the ramp 30 inches off the ground.
VanDermark said despite the few hitches, the project proved to be a nice addition to the community and he is pleased it’s being recognized nationally.
“We know it has opened up the area for people,” he said. “And we welcome anything that is a positive change to the city of Winston.”
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They were the fathers of everybody and we wanted to honor our fathers.
Son of Harold Nichols