Willamette Falls Legacy Project update

Mon 23 Aug 21

Willamette Falls Legacy Project officials reached a consensus last week to restructure the partnership to include the five Tribes who have been engaged on the efforts to build a public riverwalk. 

The goal is to create a new decision-making process that would include the four current project partners – the State of Oregon, Metro, Clackamas County and Oregon City – and representatives from the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (owner of the former Blue Heron paper mill site), Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.  

“You have all been really great partners and I appreciate that, and the acknowledgement that we need to change and grow is important,” Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said to project partners. “Bringing all nine government agencies together will be truly a step forward, but it will take some time and a little bit more patience.”  

In the coming months, project leaders will work to restructure a partnership that best meets the needs of each of the four public agencies and the five sovereign Tribes to be meaningfully engaged in the riverwalk project and participate in the decision-making process. The Tribes could designate whomever they wish as their representative. 

Officials last met on June 30 and discussed the possibility of restructuring the partner group to allow all Tribes with connections to Willamette Falls to have a decision-making role on the public riverwalk project after receiving a formal request from the nonprofit Willamette Falls Trust to represent four of the five Tribes engaged in the project.  

Since the beginning, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project has been comprised of officials from State of Oregon, Metro, Clackamas County and the City of Oregon City and guided by four core values: historic and cultural interpretation, public access, healthy habitat and economic redevelopment.  

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde owns the 23-acre former paper mill in downtown Oregon City where the future public riverwalk at Willamette Falls is envisioned. A strong collaborative relationship with Grand Ronde will be essential to move the public riverwalk project forward. Partners are also committed to working with all Tribes with an interest in Willamette Falls.   

The Willamette Falls Legacy Project began with a vision to transform Oregon City’s waterfront at Willamette Falls into a destination that would welcome visitors, spur economic redevelopment, restore native habitats, and invest in sharing the history and culture at the Falls. A project of this size and complexity requires building strong relationships to transform the riverfront at the former Blue Heron paper mill site into a premier destination.