A new Oregon Trail-
and a wet one, at that
The Willamette River Water Trail is being developed. Gov. Kulongoski kicked it off officially last Thursday at Spongs Landing, a Marion County Park.
The vision of the Willamette River Greenway providing public ownership of the banks of the stream has been a little blurry since it was originally begun by Gov. Robert Straub in the 1970s.
While the public has acquired a great deal of property along the river by it has never approached Straub's dream of having the Willamette be like Oregon's coastal beaches in terms of public access.
Land use planning has gone a long way to opening the riverbanks to the public. Hollywood Video owner, Mark Wattles, found that out when he tried to build a mega-million dollar home on the river but couldn't change the shoreline to his liking.
He quit work on the home-its concrete foundations already in place-and moved his family to Las Vegas.
But back to the Water Trail. This program envisions opening the river to a wide variety of watercraft, such as canoes and kayaks, and providing rest and picnic sites easily accessible from the river. The trail is seen as running from Corvallis downstream to Newberg. (It would also run upstream but that seems so much more difficult.)
The governor made his announcement near the downstream end of the trail's first "leg." That leg will run 25 miles from Buena Vista Ferry to Wheatland Ferry. We like to think of that as Polk County's Willamette River Trail.
It is our trail. We should all benefit from having an increased opportunity to explore and know an important and integral part of our area. It's exciting to rediscover what brought many of our predecessors to these parts in the beginning.
The Willamette River is one of longest and largest rivers to rise and fall within the borders of a single state. It has been designated an "American Heritage River" by the Environmental Protection Agency. (One of only two such rivers west of the Rio Grande. The other being the Hanalei river in Hawaii.)
The Willamette River Water Trail is a creative approach to gaining appreciation by a greater number of people for the source of much what we value everyday in our lives in the Willamette Valley.