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Leaders proclaim September to be swimming safety and awareness month after summer drownings

PMG FILE PHOTO - After another series of drownings this summer, Gresham Council is calling for a renewed focus on water safety and awareness. After a summer that saw several people drown while trying to beat the heat on the Sandy River, the city of Gresham has unanimously proclaimed September to be "Swimming Safety and Awareness Month."

The focus on being safe while on the water and teaching children how to swim was applauded by Gresham City Council during a meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.

"Sadly in our neighboring city of Troutdale we saw a number of deaths this summer to drowning," said Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall. "This continues to be something that plagues our (region)."

Every year 3,960 people die in drownings across the country, and that danger continues to be felt in East Multnomah County. While the presence of lifeguards have helped mitigate issues at places like Glenn Otto Park, other popular watering holes in East Multnomah County continue to be deadly.

This summer four people drowned on the Sandy River, with the deaths happening upriver at Oxbow Regional Park and Dabney State Park. In all those cases none of the victims were wearing life jackets.

Gresham Council said during the meeting that having access to swim lessons could make the difference.

"When I was growing up 45 years ago in grade school we had swimming lessons sponsored by the school district," said Councilor Sue Piazza. "I hope we can bring that back so kids can have that extra bit of safety."

While Council proclaimed a desire to improve water safety, no steps were taken during the meeting. It is unclear whether city leaders will work with regional partners or the school districts to create more programming opportunities in the future.

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