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Whats the future – if any – of access to Oswego Lake?

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Given the “private lake” plaque on city property on Oswego Lake, writer Todd Prager asks citizens:  “What’s your vision for the future of Oswego Lake?”

Background

These are exciting times. A roadmap for the future of Lake Oswego is being developed right now. The city and its various committees are in the process of evaluating whether our community's headed in the right direction. They're doing this through what's called the comprehensive plan. How does Oswego Lake, the namesake of our community, fit within this plan?

Reconnecting people with water for recreation has been identified as a public priority, yet Oswego Lake is not currently being considered by the city as a resource for meeting this need. While the historical assumption has been that the lake is privately owned and access can be limited by a private corporation, the law appears to say otherwise.  The Oregon Department of State Lands, the entity with jurisdiction over water accessibility matters in Oregon, recently confirmed a 2005 State Attorney General opinion that 'water in a river or lake belongs to the state of Oregon. For this reason, the public can use the surface of a river or lake for any legal purpose once they have gained lawful entry.' The city owns a significant amount of lakefront property and could provide this lawful access.

For example, the city could provide access for low-impact activities such as kayaking and canoeing from the new Sundeleaf Plaza downtown. Could connecting people with the lake foster better stewardship, act as an economic stimulant by drawing people downtown, provide much-needed connections to nature and help bring our community closer together?

Be heard

Do you think the issue of lake access should be addressed? If so, then how? The time for your opinions to be heard is now.

You can provide public comment online in the comfort of your own home at welovelakeoswego.com/contact-us .

You can also attend upcoming community summits, the first of which is planned for Nov. 3. Visit welovelakeoswego.com for details.

Finally, you're invited to learn more, share your opinion and/or take the lake access survey at the Oswego Lake Forum at lakeaccess.wordpress.com.

Stay tuned

There are still more lake issues to talk about:

Natural resources: Oswego Lake is arguably the city's most precious natural resource, yet it is not currently recognized by the city as such. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the community where the city maps and tightly regulates trees, streams and other natural resources on private property.

Zoning: Oswego Lake currently has no zoning. This means that the city has no oversight whatsoever on development in the lake. Again, this is in stark contrast to the rest of the community where private development is tightly regulated by the city.

Is it right for some areas of our community to be free from city regulations while others have to abide by a strict set of rules? These and many other issues merit open community discussions before Lake Oswego's roadmap for the future is complete.

Todd Prager, Lake Oswego, is a a member of the Lake Oswego Planning Commission but the views expressed here are his own and not of the commission.