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City strategy wants public to be friends with Willamette River

Council will discuss proposal Wednesday

The 17-mile stretch of the Willamette River that runs through the city of Portland attracts throngs of fishermen, jet-skiers, tour boats, kayakers, dragon boaters and others.

Yet people using the river are often frustrated by poorly maintained launches and a shortage of facilities to tie up craft, park their boat trailers, use the restroom or buy fuel.

Now that the city has completed its $1.4 billion 'Big Pipe' project to prevent most of the untreated sewage discharges that have long plagued the Willamette, the city's parks and recreation bureau and Office of Healthy Working Rivers say it's time for Portlanders to 'claim the clean river dividend.'

The two bureaus will present their vision, called the Willamette River Recreation Strategy, to the Portland City Council at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The idea is to provide a unifying strategy for maintaining, connecting and improving public facilities along the river, says Rick Bastache, a project coordinator for the Office of Healthy Working Rivers.

The first and foremost goal is to 'take care of what we've got,' Bastache says. Anyone traveling on the river can witness facilities that are in disrepair or no long used, such as the Ankeny Dock that once enabled people to tie up in the heart of downtown, near Saturday Market.

The river recreation strategy calls for improving and restoring several existing facilities, and creating new facilities during the next five to 15 years.

'It delivers to the people of Portland newfound opportunities to make friends with the Willamette,' Bastache says.

Proposed repairs and renovations include:

• Dredging at Willamette Park's boat ramp.

• Replacing Swan Island's boat ramp boarding float.

• Renovating the boat ramp at Cathedral Park.

• Replacing the dock at Sellwood Riverfront Dock.

• Repairing the riverfront pathway at McCarthy Park on Swan Island.

Some of the new projects proposed are:

• Replacing Ankeny Dock, to provide ways for boaters to easily dock downtown to enjoy shopping or other diversions. One possible location is the Salmon Springs area, to be shared with the Portland Spirit.

• A non-motorized launch under the rebuilt Sellwood Bridge on the east side, at Southeast Spokane Street.

• A new public dock in the South Waterfront District.

• Improvements at the former Staff Jennings site, on the west side of the Sellwood Bridge, which might include a park, a beach launch and public dock.

• A public swimming beach at the Waterfront Park bowl, near Riverplace.

The two city bureaus also propose a new advisory committee that could monitor improvements along the river, to keep momentum after the City Council approves the river recreation strategy.

The committee might help educate river users and avoid conflicts among the increasing number of people using the river.