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New, larger sign greets Willamette River swimmers

Group promoting Marquam Beach seeks new attraction


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Will Levenson, ringleader of the Human Access Project, is working with the parks bureau by installing new signs promoting safe swimming at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park.Portland Parks & Recreation is installing two new signs at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park to notify people they can swim in the Willamette River there, at their own risk.

The signs replace one smaller sign posted last year,

Will Levenson, who calls himself the ringleader of the Human Access Project, has been working with the parks bureau and other agencies to create a swimmable beach at the bowl north of RiverPlace in downtown Portland. The nonprofit donated $270 to make the signs, including a third one to be posted this summer at Marquam Beach south of RiverPlace.

When the parks bureau agreed to put up the existing small sign last summer, “it was really putting their toe in the water in terms of saying it’s OK to swim,” Levenson says.

But the sign was hard to read because the lettering is so small, and it stands in the middle of the beach area, obscuring the views.

The new, larger signs will be placed at the north and south sides of the beach, which some call the Tom McCall Bowl. The smaller sign will be relocated to Marquam Beach as well, along with a second, larger sign.

The Human Access Project and other groups have been clearing concrete and other materials from the beach to create smooth sand where people can put down towels. The beach is largely submerged under the river, but when summer approaches and the waters recede, Levenson and others hope more Portlanders will frolic on the beach and swim in the river.

The annual Big Float, an event Levenson created, takes off from Marquam Beach and puts in at Tom McCall Beach. He also is working to create a usable beach on the other side of the river, which he dubbed Audrey McCall Beach, after Tom McCall’s wife.

The new signs are a small step, Levenson says, to bring Portlanders closer to the river that runs through the city.

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