Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 31st, 2011 at 9:46 am
*Portland Parks & Recreation has decided to temporarily close the section of the Esplanade near the ramps and floating docks. Scroll to end of story for the latest.*
Last week we shared a report and photos of how high water on the Willamette River is impacting the floating portion of the Eastbank Esplanade.
Now, one of the planners who helped design the floating portion of the Esplanade says the ramps will have to be closed if the river continues to rise. Also, many readers are reporting that the ramps — which usually go down to the floating portion of the path — are at a severe incline and pose a serious safety hazard.
On Friday, former City of Portland Parks & Recreation planner George Hudson, said if the river rises just three more feet, the ramps will have to be closed. Hudson, who now works for Alta Planning + Design, says the ramps were made to articulate with changing water levels, but that, “If it [the river] goes up another three feet, they will need to close it down.”
Besides the statewide average snowpack being 127% above normal, warming temperatures, and continued rainfall, Hudson says high water on the Columbia River (which is at flood stages) is “backing up the Willamette like a lake.”
Hudson says a three feet rise in the river isn’t likely, but the water level has definitely risen since Thursday. The entrance to the ramps now has a severe upward incline and the City has spray-painted warning stripes on the ground as advanced warning.
As of this morning, the Esplanade remains open; but people riding on the ramps say more signage is needed to avoid crashes.
North Portland resident Danny Knudsen rode the ramps on Sunday. “They’re almost at a 90 degree angle,” he said, “you have to stop and carry your bike up… There’s no warning and it’s so dangerous I’m surprised someone hasn’t been hurt.”
A commenter who rode the ramps yesterday said, “I wasn’t prepared for the bump at the south end at all — my u-lock popped right out of its bracket at the sudden impact.”
Jonathan Gordon wrote in to says “steep uphill slant” to the ramps is “quite jarring if you’re not expecting it.”
Reader Shane F. just wrote in a few minutes ago saying he saw, “A guy wipe out there yesterday in a really bad way!”
Another reader, Sue K., writes; “Be careful on the ramps to and from the dock on the Eastside Esplanade. You have to stop and pick up your bike! It’s really, really high.”
We’ve been trying to get a comment from Portland Parks & Recreation but have not heard back. We’ll update this post when we do.
UPDATE, 10:10 am: A spokesperson for Portland Parks & Recreation says they are on the scene now and have coned off the ramps. They are making an evaluation and are considering a full closure.
UPDATE, 10:37 am:
For Immediate Release
Mark Ross, Public Information Officer
503.823.5300; cell 503.823.6634
High Water Forces Temporary Closure of Eastside Floating Walkway
(Portland, OR) –
Rising water in the Willamette River has forced Portland Parks & Recreation to close the gangway and floating dock on the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade.
A team of PP&R operations supervisors and engineers on-site has determined that the area from north of the Morrison Bridge to South of the Steel bridge shall be closed to all traffic (bike, foot, boats) effective immediately. The area affected is approximately 1000-to-1500 feet of floating territory that the rising water has made impassable.
The closure is estimated to remain in effect for about a week; possibly a week and a half or longer pending conditions and further evaluation. Portland Parks & Recreation’s primary concern is for the safety of everyone using the area, and will keep the floating platform closed until the water subsides. High water may be exacerbated by the recent rains, and hot weather could accelerate snowmelt, further prolonging high water conditions.
Bikers, runners and walkers may access the path along the river via detours currently being set up by qualified PP&R staff. Fencing and signage will clearly indicate the detour paths. Users may cross the river to the west side via the Steel & Hawthorne bridges to circumvent the affected area. We urge all riders, walkers and runners to heed this closure carefully and follow only marked signs and routes.
This marks the first time in the dock’s history that rising water has forced such a closure. Terri Davis, PP&R’s West Services Zone manager, says water has not been at this high a level since the floods of 1996. The Esplanade was built after that time. More info on the Esplanade is below.