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Plans in Motion to Restore
Ross Island Habitat

by David F. Ashton
The Bee, Dec 26, 2008

More than a year after Robert B. Pamplin Jr., owner of the Ross Island Sand & Gravel Company [and of THE BEE], donated a 44.83-acre parcel of land at the north end of Ross Island to the City of Portland, plans for managing the property were announced in a November 19th Portland Parks & Recreation board meeting - held, of all places, in Multnomah Village, a considerable distance west of the island.

PP&R's David McAllister talked about the progress they were making - and some of the challenges they face - in developing a Ross Island Management Plan.

McAllister noted that the donated land parcel excludes the shoreline on the east side of the island, along the Holgate Channel, facing Inner Southeast Portland. "Another 15 acres of island land in the area is to be negotiated in good faith in the future, but there's no guarantee."

The northern tip of the island is owned by the Port of Portland. Ross Island Sand & Gravel owns a southern portion, and the waters inside the lagoon are owned by the State of Oregon, and are open for public use.

Along with the donation agreement, Pamplin included a $100,000 endowment to help with the City's efforts to complete major wildland reclamation work by 2013. The endowment also passes the obligation to meet the reclamation requirement on to the City of Portland.

"We've done a vegetation survey of the property," McAllister said. "It is in severely degraded condition, and overrun with invasive species. In spite of its condition, it is being used by nesting birds."

Dredge mining was discontinued in 2000, and an objective of the reclamation plan is to improve endangered species' fish habitat, explained McAllister. "Fish can spend some time in the lagoon before they out-migrate."

(Portland Parks) This map shows the portion of Ross Island now owned by the City of Portland that you may view  but not touch. Four commitments outlined

The Parks official said they've developed four main commitments in the Ross Island Management Plan:

  1. Develop a habitat plan for the City-owned property;

  2. Manage the island property as a natural area;

  3. Control the invasive species, and restore habitat in the island; and

  4. Manage the habitat.
"We have no other total-water access parks," McAllister mentioned. "The Parks Bureau didn't own a boat; we had to buy one."

But if you've dreamed of motorboating to Ross Island to enjoy a picnic lunch, with the Portland skyline as your backdrop - this will never become a reality, at least on the City portion.

"A restriction [in the plan] is NO public use," stated McAllister. "We want to love the island, but not love it to death. But we are looking at ways of providing information access, in a limited way, for environmental education."

This past October, the Parks Bureau started developing an agreement with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office to enforce the policy of keeping citizens from coming ashore on this City park. "We're developing signs, to let people know it's off limits."

Motorboats to be banned

"We're also working on a ‘No Wake' proposal," McAllister continued. "We want to reduce all of the high power watercraft in the Holgate Channel. This will reduce wildlife disturbance and soil erosion, and provide a pleasant place for people to recreate."

In addition to the "No Wake" demarcation, the bureau hopes to enlist the aid of groups like Willamette Riverkeepers and the Portland Audubon Society to propose a ban of ALL motorized watercraft in the lagoon to the Oregon State Marine Board. Citizens will only be allowed to "experience the lagoon" in a kayak or rowboat.

"We're using the endowment to work with the Bureau of Environmental Services on a re-vegetation plan," McAllister explained. "First, we'll remove the invasive species. After a couple of years, we'll replant the area with native plants, then make sure they take hold."

The next step is to develop a management plan. "The plan will be created with pubic involvement, and will emphasize the visual nature of the island," said McAllister. "We will develop ways of providing access, but not as people may think. We will encourage participation, but without actually being on the site."

Ross Island is considered by the City to be part of the Brooklyn neighborhood.


David F. Ashton
Plans in Motion to Restore Ross Island Habitat
The Bee, Dec 26, 2008

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