by: DAVID F. ASHTON - The Westmoreland Park Casting Pond, drained for spring maintenance, may indeed be refilled by June - but current construction work has cancelled the Portland Rose Festival Milk Carton Boat Races this year. With few dry days this winter, the completion date for the Crystal Springs Restoration Project in Westmoreland Park continues to slip later and later.

As confirmed by Portland Parks & Recreation Project Manager Sandra Burtzos, the project can only progress “at the speed nature will allow”, because the north end of the park has now successfully been returned to a natural wetland.

Rainy weather has delayed the construction of the Nature Play Area, and now Dairy Farmers of Oregon Communications Manager Carissa Sauer revealed to THE BEE on March 12 that this year’s Milk Carton Boat Races, which their sponsorship revived in 2009, will have to be cancelled this year.

“It was a decision we made with Portland Parks,” said Sauer. “There will still be construction around the park; we want to be prudent for the sake of public safety.”

Portland Parks & Recreation Public Information Officer Mark Ross confirmed that the regatta, held at the historic Westmoreland Casting Pond, has been cancelled for 2014.

“Because of the continuing Westmoreland Park renovations in partnership with the Bureau of Environmental Services and U.S. Army Corps of engineers, there will a construction zone and construction fencing right next to the casting pond on two sides, for the next few months,” Ross said.

“The [construction] work will need an additional staging area for equipment. And, there are lots of logistics to consider with the Milk Carton races [to accommodate] the 2,500-odd people it typically attracts.”

In late February, Ross said Oregon Dairy Council’s Kurt Vetsch met with Portland Parks officials at the Casting Pond. “We all shared the same concerns about event logistics. Race organizers would be faced with accommodating a large number of people, gathered in a limited space between construction fences; and with limited parking, and no place to load/unload equipment for bands, stages, and vendors.”

The event, revived in 2009 after seven-year hiatus, has again become one of their most popular family events, commented Portland Rose Festival Foundation Public Relations Manager Rich Jarvis. “There is strong grass-roots support for it in Southeast Portland; in fact, it draws a large crowd from all over the region.

“We’re disappointed,” Jarvis told THE BEE. “But, the Portland Rose Festival Foundation looks forward to seeing the Milk Carton Boat Races return, stronger than ever, in 2015.”

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