PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — By now, everyone in Portland has heard about pop-up stores, which crop up just for the Christmas shopping season.
This summer, the city gets its first pop-up beach.
With strong support from Mayor Ted Wheeler, the city is working with the Human Access Project and other groups to make Poet’s Beach come alive this summer.
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In 2014, Human Access Project staged a grand opening for the little-used waterfront site south of RiverPlace near the Markham Bridge, after creating a gravel trail to provide easier pedestrian access to the water.
The advocacy group, led by ringleader Willie Levenson, named it Poet’s Beach after commissioning a series of basalt chunks carved with children’s poems about the Willamette River and words in the Chinook language. The Chinook people lived along the river before white settlers overtook it. Those stones line the path to the river.
Starting July 17, Poet’s Beach will get a buoy line in the water designating a safe place for people to swim in the river. There’ll be lifeguards posted in the afternoons, a portable restroom, picnic tables, trash receptacles.
And of course no Portland hangout is complete with a food cart.
The project was made possible by $158,000 Wheeler inserted into the 2017-18 city budget.
Wheeler, who joined the Human Access Project’s River Huggers for a swim across the Willamette while running for mayor, is a proponent of increasing active recreational use of the river.
“I see this as a huge opportunity for this city,” said Wheeler —a triathlete who once summited Mount Everest. — during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
At issue were two resolutions that endorsed recent studies about river access.
The Eastbank Crescent Riverfront Plan lays out redevelopment options for the east side of the river, generally near the Hawthorne Bridge and OMSI. The other study evaluated five potential swimming beaches in the central city along the Willamette River.
The City Council heard testimony from more than 30 people representing the growing and diverse activities on the river.
The testimony and subsequent council discussion revealed a split among user groups, generally between those who prioritize environmental and habitat restoration and protection, and those who want to bring more people to the river and the waterfront.
Two of the three city councilors present, Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz, said salmon habitat restoration must take precedence over beaches, as sandy areas tend to be near prime shallow-water habitat for salmon, an endangered species. Wheeler said he favored more recreational opportunities where that won’t impinge on habitat.
It’s a discussion likely to continue in future years.