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Lake Corp rejects rowing club proposal

Club faced an uphill battle with plans on pair of local fronts

The Lake Corporation Tuesday capsized a proposal by Lake Oswego Rowing Club Foundation to practice on the lake.

Seth Miller, vice president of the rowing club, said Lake Corp opted not to grant rowers use of the lake.

'Exclusivity is a prerogative of land ownership, which we respect,' said the rowing club's board of directors, in a letter issued Wednesday. 'We appreciate the constructive dialog that we were able to have with Lake Corp Manager Jeff Ward, and the consideration that the Lake Corp gave to the proposal.'

Ward did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

Miller said he received positive feedback in recent weeks from several Lake Oswego city councilors on the issue, including Kristin Johnson.

The idea also had the backing of Bill Korach, superintendent of Lake Oswego School District.

'The district is willing to provide its assistance toward reaching an agreement that would allow student rowers to use the lake, and is also willing to negotiate for use of the Lake Grove Swim Park as a point of access for the students, if needed,' he said in a letter to Lake Corp Monday.

But the rowing club faced an uphill battle on two fronts: Getting Lake Corp's permission, and convincing the city to allow the club to use the now-vacant former US Bank building at 120 N. State St. to store its shells.

The rowing club currently has the shells at the Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center on the Willamette River, just south of the Ram Restaurant. But it doesn't have a place for offices and a workout area for rowers at the sports center.

Instead, the city has allowed the club to use the US Bank building in the last month for offices and working out.

But that will end soon, as the city plans to tear down the US Bank building to clear space for an eventual park.

Mayor Judie Hammerstad said last week she is against letting the rowing club use the US Bank building, because of the city's plans to raze the building.

Now that the rowing club is back to square one, Miller said the board could look at improving its existing facility on the Willamette River, as well as several other sites to locate the club.

The club had hoped to use the lake because it is better than the river for rowing. The river's current gets stronger in the winter, and there is debris to avoid while rowing, Miller said.

'The lake is a safer environment, and it gets minimal use by motor boats in the winter,' he said.

The rowing club, which has about 75 local high school members and 20 adults, practices in the early morning and late afternoon during its rowing seasons. If the club moves to the lake, it would only use it in fall, winter and spring, Miller said.

A small class practices from 5 to 7:30 a.m. and a larger class rows from 4 to 6 p.m. A coxswain steers and keeps rowers on pace by speaking into a microphone, which is connected to speakers next to each rower.

He said the 20-year-old rowing club has won various medals and been a springboard for rowers who have successful collegiate careers.

Korach said the rowing club is a valuable community asset.

'The junior rowing program, which is sanctioned by the Lake Oswego Community School as a varsity letter sport, has demonstrated impressive growth in terms of student participation, and student rowers have quickly established themselves as dedicated and successful athletes,' he said.