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It’s official: No booze on Sauvie Island beaches this summer

Posted by on March 16th, 2018 at 4:10 pm

The commissioners at today’s meeting.

A very popular riding area north of Portland will be a bit safer this summer.

Today at their meeting in Salem, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission voted unanimously to ban alcohol use in the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area from May 1st to September 30th.

The ban comes after a recommendation by ODFW to stem the increase in drunk driving and other alcohol-related arrests and disturbances on Sauvie Island beaches within the boundaries of the wildlife area.

Sauvie is a popular destination for berry picking.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

At today’s meeting commissioners heard a presentation from ODFW staff that alcohol use — and the crowds in general — on the beaches has gotten out of control. In the past five years the annual number of visitors to the wildlife area has reached nearly 1 million people — that’s more than Crater Lake National Park. About 65 percent of the annual visits happen during the summer month and the majority of those head right to the beaches on the island’s northeast corner.


“Sauvie Island Wildlife Area has become the party spot for the Portland metro area for the summer,” an ODFW staffer (whose name I couldn’t hear in the recording) told the commission.

A State Trooper who testified said he’s responded to alcohol poisonings, people passed out in the parking areas, and even arrested someone selling jello shots on the beach. And of course there have been a number of crashes on the roads that lead out to the beaches.

“One of our primary goals here is to prevent deaths,” the staffer said. “And there’s a large number of bicyclists who utilize Sauvie Island during the summer. Those are some very narrow roads and it’s not a good mix to have those bicyclists.”

One commissioner expressed hesitation about the law. “We already have laws that can punish these abusers,” he said. “But I think I’m going to support it primarily because the citizens from Sauvie Island have asked for it. Our great experiment as a country to ban alcohol didn’t work so well, but if the citizens of Sauvie Island said, ‘Yeah, we need to do this,’ than I’m willing to go along.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • Justin March 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    But where will I do outdoor relaxing naked drinking time?

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    • Alan 1.0 March 17, 2018 at 12:16 pm


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    • John Lascurettes March 18, 2018 at 2:00 am

      Rooster Rock?

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 18, 2018 at 10:52 am

      What’s wrong with the front yard?

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  • bikeninja March 16, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Prediction: Lots of bottles with funny colored gatorade and ice tea on the beach this summer.

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  • morgan March 16, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    This ban will only be as good as the enforcement behind it. Here’s hoping that it’s not just a paper tiger.

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    • rick March 16, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      I’ve rarely seen the Multnomah County sheriff patrolling the West Hills. This issue on the beaches and roads needs the frequent, jurisdictional patrols this summer.

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  • Spiffy March 16, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    another prediction: drivers just drink before they go to the beach… and drink more to last them through the visit…

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 18, 2018 at 10:53 am

      That’s good advice.

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  • Bjorn March 16, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Seems like more NIMBY nonsense. Of course people who live on the island and wish it was a gated community are for things that will reduce the number of people going there. Maybe one reason people go drink there is that so few parks in Portland allow for the responsible consumption of alcohol. Perhaps a better response would have been more alcohol allowed parks.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 16, 2018 at 11:56 pm

      The reason for the ban is that people were not consuming alcohol responsibly, but were instead driving drunk. I think it’s a stretch to claim people travel to Sauvie’s because they can’t drink in their local park.

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    • q March 17, 2018 at 12:15 am

      That’s wrong on so many levels.

      “NIMBY nonsense”? A “NIMBY” is someone who’s fine with something, as long as it’s “not in my backyard”. I doubt many people supporting the alcohol ban are fine with drunk driving elsewhere. They just want it no less safe than elsewhere.

      And the article says about a million people per year visit the wildlife area. If the residents are wishing the island was a gated community, they’re hardly acting that way.

      And what’s the “nonsense”? It sounds like there’s a major safety problem.

      And if the reason people go there to drink is that drinking is restricted in Portland’s parks, so what? It’s not Sauvie Island’s duty to create a drinking option for Portland residents.

      And if you think that opening up more options for alcohol consumption in Portland parks is a good idea, these new restrictions on Sauvie Island if anything will encourage people here to do make that happen, because they’ll no longer have the option of driving to the island to drink.

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    • lila dallas multipass March 17, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Agreed. I never understand why America punishes the symptom, not the cause. We should have alcohol available *everywhere* and police the bad behavior – drunk driving, aggressivity, etc. Every other civilized place in the world allows you to drink in public, which is a class thing – I can sit in the park drinking instead of paying $8 for a pint 3 feet over in some craft gastropub.

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    • was carless March 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      How about some transit service then.

      Yeah, I bet the locals would love it. Still, if you are going to live near one of three public beaches within an hour’s drive of Portland…

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  • Kittens March 17, 2018 at 3:07 am

    Good. They need to do speed enforcement on those roads. People are driving like complete A’s (drunk, high, etc). Really feels lawless out there.

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  • Mike Quigley March 17, 2018 at 5:24 am

    Portlanders are apparently drowning their sorrows in alcohol consumption. Willamette Week is always packed with drinking articles that boast about getting drunk. There are bars and brewpubs everywhere. All while the rest of America is overdosing on opioids.

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    • Kittens March 18, 2018 at 2:17 am

      It’s a sort of lazy shorthand for a profitable business… your petwash/hair salon/book store not doing so hot? Apply for a liquor license and watch the money roll in.

      I’m probably in the minority here, but I think it’s perverse that OMSI’s biggest events are all centered around getting drunk.

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  • Brian March 17, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Drinking and driving is illegal, and people still do it. I fail to see how this ban will decrease it, but maybe my glass is just half empty.

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  • pdx2wheeler March 17, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    More like… No booze (in the open)…!

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  • mark smith March 18, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    This will surely provide police a legal way to pick on minorities in a greater way, if nothing else.

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    • Kyle Banerjee March 19, 2018 at 9:58 am

      I don’t hang out there myself so I don’t know what it’s like there. In my experience, most environments filled with people just hanging out where drinking is out of control are hostile to minorities. I will take it a step further and suggest such environments are often dominated by members of a supposedly outdoorsy subculture that makes it unpleasant to just about everyone else.

      Cops need to be able to use their judgment — and be held accountable when they don’t do so in a professional and nondiscriminatory way.

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      • BB March 19, 2018 at 11:43 am

        What “outdoorsy subculture” is defined by “people just hanging out where drinking is out of control”? Or are you just attempting to take a swipe at people who read this blog?

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        • q March 19, 2018 at 12:39 pm

          Kyle’s description didn’t seem at all like a swipe at anyone reading this–quite the opposite in fact.

          He said “SUPPOSEDLY outdoorsy subculture”. To me that describes some of the drinkers at Sauvie Island, who might see themselves as there for the outdoor experience, but in contrast to others who might actually be there primarily for that (cyclists, walkers, birdwatchers…) they’re there just as much for the drinking.

          Kyle’s obviously free to say what he meant, but that’s the impression I got.

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          • Kyle Banerjee March 19, 2018 at 5:28 pm

            q read my intent correctly.

            There is an entire subculture built around consumption of gasoline. They haul practically entire houses to the coast, mountains, forests, and anyplace with some tranquility where they proceed to tear around in boats, snow machines, ATVs, etc. As a group, they rely on a ridiculous amount of equipment to do trivial things.

            I specifically seek out environments that are completely inaccessible to these idiots and their machines. Happily, Oregon and Washington both offer good options in this department.

            I don’t believe the cops care if people have a few drinks if they don’t cause trouble, but they do care if people are being a menace to themselves and others.

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  • John March 19, 2018 at 9:37 am

    There’s one way on and off the island. I’d rather see breathalyzer stings on the bridge.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 19, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Are those constitutional in Oregon?

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      • John March 19, 2018 at 10:18 am

        Apparently they are not. But pulling people over for failing to signal, speeding, and countless other infractions is legal.

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    • Manny March 27, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Not True. Many of us come up the river by boat.

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