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The goal is to install campsites and refurbish the southwestern tip of the island into a much-needed stop for rivergoers

COURTESY PHOTO: WILLAMETTE RIVERKEEPERS - Earlier this month, the nonprofit Willamette Riverkeepers announced the acquisition of a portion of Ash Island along the river in Newberg, a nearly 10-acre property just upriver from Rogers Landing.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit Willamette Riverkeepers announced the acquisition of a portion of Ash Island along the river in Newberg, a nearly 10-acre property just upriver from Rogers Landing. The organization's purchase seeks to revitalize the tip of the 147-acre island and turn it into a serviceable campsite and stopping ground for those navigating the river.

"We own a couple other properties along the Willamette and will likely own another by the end of the summer," executive director Travis Williams said. "The idea is to provide another space where canoeists, kayakers or others utilizing the Willamette Water Trail can land there with low-impact crafts, camp for the night or just stop there for lunch. There is a dearth of properties along that stretch of the river where people can do that and this is a great use of that space."

Willamette Riverkeepers is based out of Portland and Eugene, with the mission to protect and restore the Willamette River's water quality and habitat. The organization runs a variety of programs that address those issues and encourage people to engage in practices that protect the river and land around it.PMG FILE PHOTO - With the purchase of a portion of Ash Island near Newberg, the Willamette Riverkeepers can now erect camping facilities for paddlers plying the mighty river.

The group also restores parks and habitat with the help of local entities, purchasing some properties in order to gain the rights to do some of its work. The previous users of the property left the Ash Island parcel in rough shape, Williams said.

"The property has been subject to a bit of abuse by some who have camped there recently from power boats, so our management touch will change things up a bit," Williams said. "Generally speaking, folks need to learn about Leave No Trace principles when traveling the river. We've been in communication with folks at the (Chehalem Park and Recreation District) and they thought it was a good idea for that land to pass on to the Willamette Riverkeepers. We hope to make positive use of it as things start to work back toward normal in the next few months, hopefully."

The goal of Willamette Riverkeepers with the property is to install a trail, a pair of campsites and rest areas for folks looking to pull off the river and take a break, have a snack or enjoy the island's natural splendor. A potential partnership with CPRD is in the offing after initial communication with Bart Rierson, a CPRD board member who also serves on the board of the Riverkeepers.

"We'd like to put in a loop trail on the property and that'll be tricky, but with the right management we will have two official campsites," Williams said. "If you're paddling through the Willamette, it serves a critical function in terms of location. They can plan on stopping there when they see the tip of the island."

Work likely won't start until next year, but in the meantime volunteers from the Riverkeepers will be working to remove invasive species and clean up the area. Then begins the work of installing the trails and campsites and making the area safe and accessible to those making their way along the river via whatever low-impact watercraft they choose.

The future of the island itself is something to ponder as well, Williams said, considering the portion of the property the Riverkeepers purchased is but a sliver in a large, forested piece of land surrounded by flowing water. A large swath of the land continues to harbor crop land.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest of the island," Williams said. "It's 147 acres in addition to our nine and a half, so I think whatever we do will keep with the future of the rest of the island."


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