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Will Oswego Lake be occupied?

Occupy group may try to go onto Oswego Lake March 22
by: Staff Willamette Week's Martin Cizmar heads out Sunday for a paddle on Oswego Lake.

A floating version of an Occupy encampment could be coming to Lake Oswego.

The target: Oswego Lake, which has made headlines during a revival of the long-running, on-again, off-again debate over public versus private access. Controlled by a corporation of lakefront property owners, the lake is considered private.

But some people outside of the city, along with a few residents, have persisted with questions.

Since Oregon became a state, all land under waterways capable of transporting people and goods has generally been considered state-owned. Regardless of ownership, in 2005, Oregon's attorney general said the public is allowed to use lakes and rivers so long as the water is deep and wide enough to boat in.

Lake Oswego resident and local law professor Michael Blumm was among a few people recently calling for a re-examination of the lake's status.

He contended the lake is a publicly owned resource being 'monopolized' by the Lake Oswego Corporation and its members. He said the state, if in control of the water, would be able to regulate access, such as preventing use of motorized boats to protect water quality and ensure people's safety.

William Hedlund, who lives on the Oregon coast but grew up in Lake Oswego, recently wrote to the city council to outline his view of the issue: 'I propose that the city and Lake Corporation concede that the lake is public property,' he wrote, 'but work with the Oregon State Marine Board to incorporate its present usage rules into state law for the most part.'

But Lake Oswego residents, including waterfront property owners, have raised concerns about public access threatening safety and environmental resources, as well as potential impacts on property values and city tax revenue.

Now, although the Lake Oswego City Council and Planning Commission members have voiced support in recent months for keeping the 'status quo' with the lake's exclusivity, it looks like the debate will continue.

A Portland alternative weekly newspaper is responsible for the latest challenge.

Willamette Week's Martin Cizmar recently paddled around Lakewood Bay, part of the 415-acre Oswego Lake. He put his kayak in the water at the steps in the city's Millennium Plaza Park, made his way around the bronze cattails by the stairs and glided out past Headlee Walkway onto the lake.

A Facebook page was created March 7 to encourage others to do the same.

Occupy Portland's Facebook account is seeing a lot of discussion of the issue. A post from the Portland movement states: 'This was shared because it represents a larger struggle: those with resources, and thus influence, claiming the earth for their exclusive use.'

Organizers involved with the Occupy Portland movement said because it is 'truly a leaderless movement,' no one can say whether there is an 'official' link to plans for Occupy Oswego Lake, and it doesn't appear the Occupy Portland General Assembly has voted to take any official action in that area. However, they also said several people involved with Occupy Portland are planning on making it an event.

Doug Thomas, president of the Lake Corp.'s board of directors, said he believes Cizmar broke city park rules by launching a boat from Millennium Plaza Park.

Although organizers implied the date could change because it conflicts with World Water Day, 'Occupy Oswego Lake' is apparently set for March 22. The only instructions posted so far? 'Bring canoe.'



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Lake Oswego

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