POSTED SEPTEMBER 1, 2016
(Portland, OR) –
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) announces that Kelley Point Park is again open today after a temporary closure. PP&R has installed new signs at the park (N Marine Drive and Lombard Street, at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers) on the heels of two recent drownings in less than two weeks. Portland Fire & Rescue (PFR) supported the temporary closure, which began Monday, August 22, 2016, which allowed PP&R to install the signs, and to do outreach with partners.
“We want neighbors to know that yes, Kelley Point Park is open again, but also that the area is hazardous and nobody should wade or swim there,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “We hope the community will help spread the word and that this will be a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.”
Portland Parks & Recreation installed additional and larger “Do not enter water” signs at Kelley Point Park. The nearly three dozen signs have a swimming icon surrounded by the familiar red circle and line, as well as messaging in English and in 14 other languages warning visitors to say out of the water.
There are several factors which make swimming off Kelley Point Park much different – and more dangerous – than swimming in a lake, for instance, including:
- Powerful currents as two unpredictable and powerful rivers come together
- An uneven bank
- Unknown underwater obstructions
- A land shelf with an abrupt and deep drop-off and notably,
- Locations where people’s feet are suddenly getting caught in sticky mud in deeper water
These, plus ever-changing environmental conditions are some of the major factors that make swimming or wading off of Kelley Point Park so risky, and so life-threatening. The natural beauty of the area may belie these hazards, and PP&R asks for the community’s help get the word out.
“I want to make sure the danger of swimming off Kelley Point Park is clear to all park visitors,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “We know the temporary closure was an inconvenience for some folks, but we felt it was necessary. With the park open once again, we hope visitors to Kelley Point will enjoy the trails and other on-shore activities with an eye on safety.”
Abbaté and Portland Fire & Rescue officials also stressed that there is only so much that signs can do. Portland Parks & Recreation estimates that there is roughly one mile of shoreline at Kelley Point Park, and signs at every water entry point are not feasible.
Portland Fire & Rescue works diligently to rescue swimmers in trouble, but says prevention and awareness are the most effective tools to keep people out of danger.
“Our abilities to rescue swimmers in the situations such as we encountered this month are very limited,” says PF&R Chief Mike Myers. “We need to save people before they even get in the water, and we must rely on education, and the community understanding what they face when it comes to nature, to bolster our efforts. We don’t want to see any more tragedies like these.”
Other measures possible
At this time, the bureau has determined that the powerful rivers and ever-changing conditions at Kelley Point Park are too unpredictable to be considered safe for swimming or wading- until more analysis is complete and possibly other precautions established. Portland Parks & Recreation has begun asking websites and partners which counted Kelley Point Park as a swimming destination to remove the park from their listings. PP&R will consider longer-term measures in addition to the increased and larger signage now in place. The bureau may consider factors including scientific data on the depth and topography, current, and/or other conditions of the area off Kelley Point Park in order to inform any future decisions involving swimming.