Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, progress continues to be made on planning for the future riverwalk at Willamette Falls.
Willamette Falls Legacy Project staff continue to work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Blue Heron paper mill’s new property owner, to evaluate how to phase and scale the riverwalk project in a way that can meet funding constraints, public commitments and the development needs of the site. When the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde purchased the former mill in 2019, it gave us the opportunity to work with a property owner motivated to redevelop the site.
“We’re really excited about having a partner that’s engaged in the project,” Brian Moore, Willamette Falls Legacy Project manager, told Grand Ronde officials at an October 29 partners group meeting. “We’re looking forward to seeing how [the] vision comes together and figuring out how we can integrate the work that we’ve done with all of the work that you’ve done.”
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde earlier this year shared with Legacy Project officials an alternative riverfront concept they developed for the first phase of the riverwalk, which would still support the Legacy Project’s four core values and the riverwalk conceptual design, while meeting Grand Ronde’s site cleanup and development goals. Like the original Phase 1 concept, cost estimates for Grand Ronde’s proposed approach also exceed the $12 million available to fund the first phase of the project. Metro is in negotiations with Grand Ronde to identify a Phase 1 that can address the approach, cost, development needs and funding restrictions for the project.
Estimates for the original riverwalk Phase 1 plan showed that construction costs could range from $23 million to $33 million depending on the scope and scale of the first phase of the riverwalk. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project has roughly $12 million set aside for construction of the first phase of the riverwalk.
Fundraising and community engagement
Willamette Falls Trust is the nonprofit organization charged with philanthropy and community engagement for the future riverwalk. The Trust’s board, campaign cabinet and staff are continuing to connect with community members who can make transformational gifts to catalyze the project.
The Trust is also driving multi-Tribal community engagement that will inform the design and future programming of the Willamette Falls Riverwalk. The Trust is building relationships with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the urban Indigenous community of Portland. This work will help to elevate tribal community perspectives and better inform design and programming decisions for the public riverwalk project.
“The investment in building these relationships is essential," said Gerard Rodriguez, director of Tribal engagement for Willamette Falls Trust. "Willamette Falls is a place of cultural, historical and ongoing significance to each of these communities, whose engagement is fundamental. The effort will reflect long standing relationships to this sacred place, and ultimately result in meaningful input across various aspects of the project,”
The Trust hopes to share a framework for future site activities in spring 2021.
“This is an opportunity of such great significance and our project and outreach efforts continue because getting this right is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Brian Moore with the Legacy Project.
A fire occurred at the former Blue Heron paper mill on Saturday, Dec. 5. Clackamas Fire and other first responders were able to contain the blaze to one building, which is located outside of the future riverwalk area.
Shortly before the fire began, Oregon City Police responded to a report of criminal trespass at the former mill site. They’ve since arrested an individual in connection with the fire. Clackamas Fire wrapped up their preliminary investigation and they’ll continue working with the property’s owner, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, as well as Oregon City Police and Clackamas County District Attorney’s office as the case moves through the legal system.
Last month, the Clackamas County Elections Office announced the recall of Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay, who was one of the Oregon City officials who participated in the Willamette Falls Legacy Project partners group. Oregon City remains committed to the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and the future riverwalk, and we look forward to seeing new representatives participating at upcoming partners group meetings.