4 Ways Portland's Willamette Riverfront Could Change

Jun 7, 2017

Several stretches of the Willamette River in downtown Portland are poised for a makeover in the coming decade.

Now, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority both say the Willamette is clean enough to swim in, though they suggest you might want to shower afterward.

Here's a rundown on the changes on the horizon for the Willamette in central Portland.

The company recently completed a $20 million environmental clean-up of its 33-acre riverfront property. It announced last year it is closing its barge building business and planning a mixed-use development it calls Zidell Yards on the site.

He said the company is actively pursing a permit for a new dock that will connect to the Willamette Greenway trail. The company hopes to break ground on the redevelopment in July 2020.

The money has been earmarked to transform one site, a sandy spot under the Marquam Bridge — known as Poet's Beach — into a "pop-up" summer swimming beach.

The funds would be used to provide a swimming area buoy line, signage, trash cans, bicycle parking, lifeguards and life vests. The swimming beach would be open to the public from July to September.

On the east side of the river,the nonprofit Portland Boathouse has been a home for Portland rowers and paddlers since 2004.

Much of the Willamette River in Portland is relatively hostile to fish: it's a deep, dredged channel, hemmed in by concrete walls.

It has proposed peeling back layers of concrete and dirt to make the slope of the bank more gentle, adding snags and logjams for fish, and planting native plants and trees along the shore.

They’ve also proposed building a new designated dock for light water craft in the area and creating temporary floating docks for summer swimmers, in part to minimize conflict between the two groups of users.

The plan doesn't have any funding at this time, and there isn't a timeline for it either.

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