Oregon City, OR. There’s an update on the plans for a special Riverwalk along the Willamette Falls in Oregon City. Details were provided by Andrew Mason, the Executive Director of the Willamette Falls Trust. He explained that when the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde purchased the former Blue Heron mill located adjacent to Willamette Falls last August, the news was welcomed by the Willamette Falls Trust which is spearheading the revitalization of the falls including the Willamette Falls Riverwalk project. (Tribe members have taken ceremonial fish at the falls for years.)
The Tribe has since applied for $975,000 in grants to assist with site assessments and clean up, and they are working with local architecture and landscape design firms to create a future vision for their property. Their land purchase and the results of Willamette Falls Legacy Project’s detailed cost estimating also sparked new thinking around what could be accomplished during the Phase One portion of the project.
After purchasing the property, Grand Ronde proposed an alternative approach to Phase One. If feasible, it would include a riverside path to a scenic overlook of the Falls, which differs from the previous plan to route people through the former mill. A focus of the proposal is to increase public safety during any construction happening on Grand Ronde’s property. It would also provide more opportunities to view the river along the way to the Falls overlook. Phase One of the Riverwalk still aims to restore habitat along the riverbank and prepare the site for future phases of construction.
The groundbreaking schedule initially planned for 2020, has shifted to accommodate looking into this opportunity. Project partners—Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and State of Oregon—will consider the proposal after the Grand Ronde team completes the design and construction cost estimate.
Andrew Mason explained, “We continue to receive unprecedented community and financial support. While additional funds will be needed to get us to the finish line on this visionary project, we’re grateful for the continued donations and volunteer hours given, including more than $7 million from donors within and outside our community, as well as $20 million from the passage of Metro’s parks and nature bond measure in November.”
Willamette Falls has always been the cornerstone Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal culture. In 2018 the Grand Ronde Tribe received a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands to construct a fishing platform on state lands at Willamette Falls.
From Willamette Falls Trust:
Our mission is to champion and sustain a world-class Willamette Falls experience that offers year-round access to the grandeur of the Falls, historic and cultural interpretation, healthy habitat, public open spaces, and that showcases the hospitality of historic Oregon City.
Willamette Falls Trust is the organization bringing people and communities together to make the new vision for a world-class public space along the Willamette River in Oregon City, Oregon a reality.
We are raising the funds and creating the partnerships to support the first phase of transformation, which includes an overlook at the precipice of the Falls, a connection to Oregon City’s downtown, and opportunities to explore history.
We work closely with Willamette Falls Legacy Project—the public-sector collaboration that kick-started this work—and others, as we steward the collective vision for Willamette Falls. The project has the support of Governor Kate Brown, state legislators, local and regional council members—and has been designed with input from thousands of Oregonians.