Where We Live: Accessing the Willamette River

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Human Access Project's 10th Anniversary

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Human Access Project, which was formed to encourage people to swim and play in the Willamette River. This year, they’re celebrating a new way for people to access the Willamette, at a place named for a former Portland Trail Blazer.

Kevin J Duckworth Memorial Dock. August 2020 (KOIN)

Willie Levenson has a love affair with the Willamette River. He started the Human Access Project a decade ago after the Big Pipe Project stopped most sewage overflows into the river.

“The Willamette is perfectly safe to swim in now. There’s no scientific evidence that says otherwise,” said Levenson.

The Human Access Project pushed for, and got, eight ladders installed for swimmers at the Kevin J. Duckworth Memorial Dock on the Eastbank Esplanade, south of the Steel Bridge. It’s part of a plan to make the dock an inviting place for everyone.

“Really, this is a world class swimming hole in the making,” said Levenson.

Portland Trail Blazers’ All Star Kevin J. Duckworth

It’s a vision that would make Kevin Duckworth proud. He played center on those great Blazer teams of the early 90s, featuring Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler.

Duckworth was an avid outdoorsman and loved to fish–especially with teammates like Buck Williams. “Duck” died of a heart attack in 2008 at the age of 44. A year later, the Duckworth Dock was named for the beloved Blazer with a big heart.

“I think as long as people appreciate how great he was, what he stood for–he was just one of those gentle giants, so to speak,” said teammate Terry Porter.

Blazers fan and fishing instructor Dishaun Berry wanted to bring his young people here to do what Duck did, even with the restrictions on fish you can eat from the Willamette.

“We want people to experience, to be able to fish out of here, and release them, or at least have the fun of doing it,” said Berry.

The new ladders make swimming in the Willamette more inviting–something the Human Access Project has spent a decade encouraging people to do. KOIN 6 News was told that there are plans for the city to add more amenities to the dock, such as fishing rod holders and bike racks.

A rendering of the Kevin J Duckworth Memorial Dock.

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