Group wants more safety measures along Willamette River downtown

Group wants safety gear on Willamette River

PORTLAND, Ore. -- These days you'll find a lot more people swimming in the Willamette River in downtown Portland.

But one thing you likely won't find is life-saving gear, like life preservers, to help people if they get into trouble.

It’s something the nonprofit group Human Access Project is working to change.

Willie Levenson is the group's ringleader. He has long been advocating for more swimming in the Willamette downtown. Now that people are doing it, he wants more safety measures and gear put in place.

"At this point right now we are doing close to nothing to safeguard our citizens," he said. "If you have the opportunity as a civilian to grab a life ring and throw it to somebody, you have the potential to save a life."

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office River Patrol said the river's swift current can put swimmers at risk and emergency responders may not be able to get there quick enough.

"Water traffic is different than driving on a road, instead of having 3, 4, 5-minute traffic time you can have 35-45 minute times depending on where you are on the water," said Lt. Marc Shrake.

Levenson is working with Portland Parks & Recreation on a safety plan. The city says the soon-to-open Poet's Beach, located on the west side of the river under the Marquam Bridge, will provide a designated safe area for swimming, and it will be equipped with life vests and a lifeguard.

However, Poet's Beach is not yet open and may not open until mid-July.

As for those other areas? The Mayor's office said at this point it has no plans to put in life-saving gear, but added that it will be looking into it. In the meantime, it's important that people educate themselves on river and swimming safety.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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