The St. Helens Police Department wants access to Sand Island, and a new citizen-led committee wants to help them achieve that goal.

Though St. Helens is the only city in Oregon with a municipally-owned island within its city limits, there's no reliable way for police officers to access the island park. With the help of the new five-member 'Float a Boat Committee,' the police department hopes to raise about $40,000 to completely rebuild a Navy surplus hull Police Chief Steve Salle acquired for free several years ago.

The St. Helens Police Department would not use the refurbished boat to patrol the river, the way the Sheriff's Office or Oregon State Marine Board do, according to Salle. 'The key is just to have unlimited access to [the island],' he said.

Stephanie Patterson, chair of the new committee, told City Council last week that the boat could also be used to respond to other emergencies along the Columbia River.

An agreement between the police department and Columbia River Fire and Rescue would allow the regional fire district to use the boat in case of other river emergencies, Salle said.

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