Portlanders are about to get a new place to sunbathe and swim in the river that cuts through the central city.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders are pledging to re-configure a Willamette River dock now reserved for motorized boats so it can be legally used by swimmers, paddlers and others on the inner-city stretch of the river.
The Kevin Duckworth Memorial Dock, located north of the Burnside Bridge a short walk from the Rose Quarter, technically is reserved for motorized boaters, under terms of an original grant, and is scheduled to remain so until August 2021.
But the city has agreed to seek a change in those terms with the Oregon State Marine Board, and vows to seek creative uses for the dock by those more likely to use it: swimmers, fishers and those on standup paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and inner tubes.
"It's good government to better utilize assets that have value that aren't being used to their potential," says Willie Levenson, ringleader of the Human Access Project, which has crusaded for more active use of the Willamette River in the central city.
The dock was built in 1997 and funded by the Oregon State Marine Board to attract motorized boaters and serve water taxis. But those uses largely failed to materialize.
An earlier plan to relocate the dock to Swan Island near the Daimler Trucks North America headquarters was dropped in the face of community opposition.
Sun-bathers and fishers sometimes use the dock, but such uses are technically banned.
Wheeler has participated in swims across the river sponsored by the Human Access Project, and put money in the city budget last year to create a "pop-up" beach at Poet's Beach this summer on the west side of the river south of RiverPlace, complete with a lifeguard.
The Duckworth dock, named for the popular former Trail Blazers center who loved to fish, is the best ADA-accessible way to get to the river in the inner city, Levenson says.
The dock is 11 feet wide and 290 feet long, located off the Eastbank Esplanade.