I'm concerned about Newberg Pool bill
As a native Oregonian, the Willamette River has been a special place for me and my family for five generations. Living on the Newberg Pool, we have been lucky to experience both the beauty and countless outdoor activities that can be enjoyed on the river. Locals and visitors seek out the public access that provides their families, much like my own, with countless traditions, experiences and memories. I am worried about overregulation and what it would mean for our community.
Hundreds of families safely enjoy tubing, wake surfing, wakeboarding and waterskiing in the Newberg Pool each summer. It has always been important to conserve this area and keep it accessible for generations to come. In addition, these cherished pastimes help support countless local businesses including marinas, convenience stores, mechanics, restaurants and more. As a small business owner, I understand the importance of maintaining this key economic driver as many throughout our community rely on recreational boating for economic stability and employment.
Overregulation poses a unique threat on the Willamette, given that the Newberg Pool is already one of the most highly regulated bodies of water in Oregon. Countless rules have been put in place to protect this area including a Towed Water Sports Education Program, weight restriction and limiting wake surfing to just fifteen percent of the river where no docks or homes are present.
I'm deeply concerned about Senate Bill 1589 as it would ban the majority of families who recreate in this area from taking part in any towed watersports. For my family these excessive regulations would squander even the ability to take my kids tubing on our family boat.
A majority of the claims used to ignite these restrictions are not factually based. Portland Fire and Rescue's harbormaster has already debunked claims about safety and has noted towed watersports bans can actually create more safety issues. There has not been any empirical evidence or peer-reviewed research that links lowering the current boat weight limit to having any positive impact on shorelines or fish populations in the Newberg Pool. These baseless claims are now resulting in rules that will devastate many local families and businesses and set a dangerous precedent that could further negatively impact public recreation across Oregon.
Sharing the river and working to protect public access and safety is the number one goal, and the only way that can be achieved is through education and enforcement. Overregulation is not the answer to these concerns. Increased education across not only the motorized boating community, but the extended watersports and activities groups can result in safe and fair ways to share our waterway. When we focus on the reinforcement of safety measures and laws, and better signage and reminders, the need for regulations diminish. Sweeping restrictions leave many safety questions unanswered, while education and enforcement not only answers them but also makes them commonplace. An inclusive and fact-based approach must be prioritized to ensure the Newberg Pool continues its rich history of public access to watersports activities.
I encourage our legislators to support local families and small businesses by opposing SB 1589. The Newberg Pool should be safely shared and accessible to all who want to participate in recreation.
Keeley O'Brien is Wilsonville-based small business owner, proud father and OSU alum.
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