They’re one of the more notable tourist attractions on the Newport Bayfront – sea lions who have squatted on a water-level pier for years, much to the delight of tourists, but consternation for the Port of Newport.
The port built the docks years ago as a courtesy pier for ship and boat crews for easy access to the Bayfront. But since the sea lions hijacked them, the dock has weakened and become unsafe for any purpose except as a perch for the bellowing beasts. And with tourists snapping pictures and tossing food at them from the docks above, both parties are thrilled at the long running make-shift arrangement.
Over the years the piers have been damaged and worn from endless spats between the blubbery pinnipeds. In fact it’s gotten to the point that the piers have become a hazard due to their decayed state and so the port is wondering what to do about them since they own them. Some business owners along the Bayfront want the port to rebuild them – fortify them so they’ll hold up better under the pounding they take from the sea lions. Port Manager Don Mann says his first duty is to the port although he fully understands and supports the tourist benefits the sea lions bring with their daily antics – but again on port property. Mann pointed out that truck drivers often have to navigate their big rigs in and around the bayfront fish processing plants, by dodging crowds of tourists who flock to the “sea lion docks” right next door. Mann says “The close quarters pose quite a hazard to families and their children.”
“I know we’ll find a solution,” said Mann, “but it won’t be much before spring.” Mann says he’s open to discussions with Bayfront businesses, some of whom have reportedly offered some financial assistance. Mann said they might think about finding another location that is better suited for the sea lions to hold their daily shows that have grown so popular over the years.