MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — People who live near the Rivervilla Park in Clackamas County are disappointed a property owner built a fence on the sand bank down into the Willamette River, blocking public access to walkers and fishers.

But there is clear signage that denotes the area is private property and there is no trespassing. But the real issue is the waterline.

State ownership of the waterway extends to the ordinary low waterline, according to the Department of State Lands. In this particular section of the river, the land above that line is privately owned.

“People can certainly walk in the river below the line of ordinary low water,” said Liane O’Neill with the Oregon Department of State Lands.

The Oregon Department of State Lands gave the homeowners a notice that the state owns the river below the water line and the fence is disrupting salmon habitat. Officials said they gave the homeowners until Friday to remove the fence.

“We’ve asked them to remove it. They haven’t,” O’Neill said. “So we’re taking the next steps that we can to make sure that we can respond and protect this area, which is a state-owned waterway and protect the salmonid habitat.”

The state has battled the owners, Jodie and Tim Polich on this issue before, ordering them to remove the first fence they built in this area back in 2010, according to court documents.

An overhead view of a fence stretching from private property into the Willamette River at Rivervilla Park near Milwaukie, November 19, 2021 (KOIN)

Doug Nasco, the general manager of Portland Fence Company, which constructed the most recent fence on this property, shared a signed proposal confirming it was the responsibility of the owners to get permissions and permits.

In emails obtained by KOIN 6, the property owner wrote to the fence company: “Any legal issues associated with the installation of this fence will be on us, Tim and Jodie Polich.”

In a phone interview with KOIN 6 News, property owner Jodie Polich shared horror stories ocer the years of people trespassing, defecating, leaving garbage, doing drugs, letting their dogs off-leash and killing her chickens.

“We welcome all legal access and respectful use of the river front,” Mrs. Polich wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, we have seen the vegetation line shrink dramatically in the years we have lived there due to the trespass and disrespectful use of the area.” 

Polich said she’s open to compromise with the state on this issue but will keep fighting to maintain the fence until county officials find a way to regulate respectful access to this area. She said she can’t compromise on her family’s safety.