PORTLAND, Oregon — State land officials are trying to make part of North Portland’s Hayden Island safer and better for the environment. They’re focusing on a 500-yard stretch of riverbank along the Columbia River just west of the I-5 bridge, between river mile 106 and 107.
The land is somewhat of an anomaly in that the only legal way for the public to access it is from the water. But lately, state land officials say there has been more illegal activity there than recreation.
“We want the public to be able to pull up from the waterway and use and enjoy the banks over there,” said Liane O'Neill, communications officer with the Oregon Department of State Lands (ODSL). The department oversees use of state-owned waterways including the Columbia. “Our hope is to insure that we can reduce impacts on the waterway.”
For that reason, ODSL is exploring a permanent rule that would ban camp fires, camping and overnight use along that stretch. The move comes after multiple complaints from law enforcement, emergency responders and the Portland Harbor Master about illegal activity impacting the health and safety of the waterways.
In May, the state approved a six-month-long emergency restriction banning fires, camping and overnight use. It's a short-term solution to the influx of litter which included trash, drug paraphernalia and dozens of abandoned shopping carts.
O'Neill said there was also an increase in threats of violence and uncontrolled fires.
“Some of the environmental impacts we consider are erosion, when you're having things that go into the waterway that introduces more sediment,” said O'Neill. “We’re also thinking about contaminants entering the waterway.”
Hayden Island is struggling in other areas, too. On Aug. 9, the Hayden Island Cracker Barrel restaurant abruptly closed its doors for good. Employees told KGW the restaurant's management called an emergency meeting to announce the closure, telling staff it was due to security issues.
As far as Hayden Island's north bank is concerned, O'Neill said it seems their temporary camping ban has made things a little better.
“It has helped reduce impacts on the waterway. For this reason, we're looking at enacting permanent rule making.”
The Oregon Department of State Lands will accept written public comment through the month of August. Those interested in providing a public comment can email it to DSL.Rules@dsl.oregon.gov. O'Neill said the soonest any permanent rule would take effect would be in November.