PORTLAND, Ore. — Want to cool off this holiday weekend?
Lucky for you, a new public beach opened Friday on the east bank of the Willamette River right next to the Hawthorne bridge!
Across the river from her husband's namesake park, Audrey McCall Beach has been years in the making.
“You have views of downtown, sunset views,” Portland-based non-profit Human Access Project Ringleader Willie Levenson said. "I’m just happy for the people of Portland that have a new opportunity to discover the river. I love the Willamette River."
The organization spearheaded the whole effort and locked in all the required permits for the swimming area and is paying for a lifeguard program at the beach. Lifeguards will be at the beach Friday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting July 5 through September 1.
Lifeguards put out a temporary swim line and life jacket loaner station at the beach.
Together with inmates over the span of four years, the Human Access Project cleared 19 tons of concrete and debris.
“I'm totally excited! I'm going to be hanging out on the beach,” Human Access Project volunteer and swim captain Daniel Hough said.
Now Portland's second official public beach after Poet's Beach across the river, Levenson says this new beach is a milestone for the city.
"When you add water to anything it makes it exponentially more fun! Portland has no idea what's about to happen to this city. We're about to get a brand new leg of livability,” Levenson said.
A neat solution is in place to keep it clean; Human Access Project is working with a homeless advocacy group to pay them to pick up trash.
"Having a beach open like that and getting more people in the water to jump in, to play in the water, to swim in the water. The whole idea is if people can get access to the water and encounter the river that they'll take better care of it,” Hough added. “I think [the river is] really misunderstood.”
The group's mission is to transform Portland's relationship with the river so people fall in love with it. They believe there is a clear connection between recreation in the water and stewardship.
The Willamette near downtown was once unclean, but it's come a long way thanks to the ‘Big Pipe Project’.
There is still more work that needs to be done to clean up the river, and Levenson and Hough believe there's a better chance for improvement if the community feels hopeful and supportive of it.
“We want to convince people to want people to see the river is safe to swim in,” Hough said.
City of Portland's Environmental Services tests E. coli bacteria levels weekly; current and recent test results show the river is safe to swim in. The city takes samples from five popular spots weekly during the summer.