Litter, life jackets play big enforcement role in push for safety

In conjunction with the enhanced enforcement of the alcohol ban, Clackamas County Parks have begun a multi-year effort to clean up and improve safety along the heavily used Barton to Carver parks river float.

The Clackamas River Enforcement and Ecology Workgroup’s 2014 “Our River” plan was approved in April and lists several plans, from a life jacket loaner program to improved litter strategies.

“It seems to be going good,” says Rick Gruen, parks department manager.

The annual Down the River Clean-Up, led by the Clackamas River Basin Council ( and the Stash the Trash red bag campaign is being enhanced with six trash barrels the Pacific Jetboater Association members maintain along the route and a new Dumpster at Carver Boat Ramp.

A new kiosk at Barton Park is expected to be finished this week with volunteers staffing it most weekend days, greeting floaters and checking out life jackets and whistles.

The kiosk will eventually have a map of the river with known hazard spots, the new trash stations, an outhouse and river miles with float times, along with warnings about when the parks close so people can plan to get to their vehicles before they are towed.

The kiosk will also feature some of the new messages that are scheduled to go up on signs throughout the parks this week.

Replacing signs that simply state park rules, Gruen said these new signs will also have information about river health and safety.

“We thought that there needs to be less regulatory and more positive messaging signs,” he says.

More positive, customer-service-oriented messaging seems to be a theme, as Gruen also hired a temporary “greeter” at the Carver Boat Ramp to nicely direct people toward the self-pay parking meter.

The new system and positive messaging was put to the test July 12 when officials had to close the park for about an hour and a half because they were passed capacity.

“It was sort of a perfect storm,” says Gruen. The campsites were all full, all seven of the reserve areas were booked and temperatures reached the mid-90s, inspiring people to head to the river. Parks rangers and sheriff’s deputies had to turn people away, but Gruen says that with a large reader board in place and a turn-around spot designated, it went as well as could be expected.

“While people might have been frustrated, it was managed fairly positively,” he said.


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