Public access to Willamette River up for debate
The City of Wilsonville is deliberating whether to unhook fishing restrictions at the Wilsonville Memorial Park boat dock. And, during a March 19 work session, Mayor Tim Knapp argued in favor of letting the rods loose.
"And I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with saying, 'Gee, because there's boats we're not going to allow you to fish,' " Knapp said.
However, Wilsonville City Council did not make a decision in the work session and is expected to decide whether or not to change boat dock regulations at an upcoming city council meeting.
As Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Director Mike McCarty described in the work session, in 1996 the City of Wilsonville received a grant from the Oregon State Marine Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to rebuild the boat dock.
As part of the agreement, the marine board established parameters for the dock — including outlawing fishing, swimming and diving — so that boaters could tie up their boats without interference.
However, the agreement between Wilsonville and the marine board expired in June of last year and the city can now allow such activities if it so desires.
City staff members suggested allowing fishing from Oct. 1 to April 30 — a time when some fish will be available to catch and boating is less active. McCarty said he talked with fishers in the area and they said that fish such as salmon, steelhead and bass will be available during some of that time period.
"Obviously there are not too many boats out and it (the proposed time period for allowing fishing) works with what the people are saying and what they would like to do down there," McCarty said.
However, in the meeting, Knapp enthusiastically argued for the council to go a step further. He advocated allowing fishing at the dock throughout the year and said that rather than implementing restrictions, boaters and fishermen could resolve potential conflicts amongst themselves.
"There's a lot of water in Oregon and people deal with accommodating boats and people fishing in virtually every body of water in Oregon," Knapp said.
McCarty is not sure what the impact of allowing fishing at the boat dock would be.
"I don't know what the interference would be for the boaters. It's never been allowed for 20 years. I know there are a lot of boats out there starting in May and there are quite a few that tie up there. I could see that being problematic," he said.
Knapp indicated that if the council nullified the fishing restriction and the change caused significant problems for boaters, he would consider reapplying restrictions.
"My inclination personally is to be as least restrictive as possible until we've proven that that doesn't work and then we have to do a more restrictive thing," he said.
City staff, however, recommended the council continue to outlaw swimming and diving and councilors did not comment on the question.
"While we were doing the research on the boat dock, the assistant city manager called our insurance carrier to get a feel for it (allowing swimming and diving) and she met and said they definitely would not recommend that," McCarty said.
"Swimming would be one you would really need to think hard about just from a liability standpoint (like people drowning) because it's not a visible area. We don't do that much enforcement down there," Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.