PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With some boat ramps reopening in Oregon and warm summer weather in the forecast, KOIN 6 has some water safety reminders for those heading out on the water.
Boat launches were open Thursday throughout Portland but only to groups of 10 people or less. City officials also encourage people to stay six feet apart.
Many city and county parks across Oregon have kept their boat launches open since the start of the pandemic but some remain closed. The Oregon State Marine Board has an online map of all boat ramps and recommends calling ahead before visiting one to make sure it’s open.
Officials also want people to be sure to bring a fitted life vest and other necessary supplies before visiting a lake or river. It’s also important to dress appropriately for the water conditions, not the air temperature.
“A lot of it comes down to personal preparation,” said Ashley Massey with the Oregon State Marine Board. “Making sure you are well-educated, that you are familiar with the waterway, that you don’t take on risk above your skill level and recognize staying local with where you are familiar is still the best prevention.”
Massey said currents are still very strong and water levels are high in many rivers and lakes so wearing a life jacket should be the first step in planning a safe outing. Marine patrols will be out on Oregon waterways and have been training for white water and rescue operations. Massey said if an area seems too crowded, have a backup plan in mind to help maintain physical distancing.
No lifeguards on duty
Lifeguards will not be stationed at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale or High Rocks Park in Gladstone/Oregon City this season. Applicants for the AMR River Rescue Program weren’t able to get their EMT certifications due to the pandemic.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said the Sandy River at Glenn Otto Park can be cold and fast-moving so signs will be put up to warn swimmers the area is unguarded.
“Each summer, the City of Troutdale contracts MCSO to station a deputy at Glenn Otto Park during the summer months. The “beach deputy” is primarily responsible for ensuring public safety at the park and the popular beaches along the Sandy River. The deputy is in uniform and has a marked car, so they are easy to spot in an emergency,” said Chris Liedle with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. “If there is a water rescue, we ask the public to call 911. Depending on the location of the call, assistance will come from the Gresham Fire Department, Corbett Fire Department, our deputies and our River Patrol Unit.”
Officials released the following list of recommendations:
- Wear a life jacket when you are in or near the water (children should wear them at all times and be within arm’s reach under constant supervision)
- Life jackets will be available at both sites on an honor system. The lifeguards will not be present to issue/loan and recover the life jackets, but we encourage people to use them and return when they depart the park.
- Be aware of the risk of cold shock due to cold spring water temperatures (~ 50 degrees)
- Carefully read and follow all signage
- Swim at your own risk
The AMR River Rescue Program shared the following statement with KOIN 6:
“With a heavy heart I wanted to inform this page that AMR River Rescue will not be staffing either park this summer until further notice. AMR has proudly served the community in this capacity for 21 seasons, assisting well over 1500 people.
We are all upset by this as we care so much about protecting the folks that come through our parks. This program has saved hundreds of lives and if we had it our way, we’d be back out there keeping people safe.
Unfortunately, due to the current Pandemic, applicants for the River Program were unable to get their EMT Certs, and we were unable to get them tested due to pools closing down. Aside from all that, we were challenged by how we would protect our lifeguards and how to maintain social-distancing or even have a life jacket loner program.
On behalf of the AMR Lifeguards past and present, we are sorry that this is happening. Please be safe out there this summer, and we’ll see ya next season.“
The city of Troutdale said it was “concerned” about the lack of a lifeguard on duty at Glenn Otto Park this summer but is still working to make the area as safe as possible.
“We are working very closely with our partner agencies, MCSO and Gresham Fire, to do what we can to minimize the safety issues,” said City Manager Ray Young. “We are increasing public awareness both online and through many prominate signs in the Park. We also hope to have more “self-help” resources at the park for the public to use in case of an emergency. We will continue to explore ways to enhance safety and increase public awareness of the additional risks inherent at the Park in the absence of trained swift water lifeguards.”
The Big Float “on your own”
What would have been the 10th-annual Big Float along the Willamette River has been canceled this year, the Human Access Project announced Thursday. The float will take place on July 10, 2021.
In 2019, The Big Float drew upwards of 4,000 people who set sail after a parade in Downtown Portland. The flotilla of inner-tubes, kayaks and inflatable rafts bobs along the river from Tom McCall Waterfront Park to Poet’s Beach under the Marquam Bridge.
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