This Summer We Swim


Well, hello there, Summer! The raspberries are so ripe they are falling off the cane. Neighbors gather and leisurely enjoy them while catching up on the local summer happenings. I’m picking shirt-fulls of strawberries every morning from my berry patch, each one dewy and sweet. We have swung fully into summer mode: beers on porches, happy hour on sunny patios, punk shows at book stores, and riding our bikes everywhere. There is a lot to celebrate this summer. Notably, this is the summer that we begin swimming in the Willamette. I’m not sure how quickly Portland culture will be transformed or in what direction this might lead us, but it feels big.

For years we were told that the gentle, beautiful waterway that bisects our town was too polluted to swim in. On hot summer nights we would ride our bikes across the Steel Bridge allowing the upriver breeze to cool us. Who didn’t want to wash away the summer sweat with a quick plunge from the banks? We all longed for moonlit skinny-dips or splashy romps at Cathedral Park with our friends. While riding along the Springwater corridor I imagined myself swimming bravely out to Ross Island.

Our city that works has completed the Big Pipe Project keeping those pollutants that once fouled the waters during heavy rains out of the Willamette and the Department of Environmental Quality has proclaimed the river to be safe for swimming. To celebrate and spread the word, the good people at The Human Access Project are inviting us to swim and float with them on July 27th. I can’t wait to see fellow Portlanders launch canoes, inner tubes, and rafts from Poet’s Beach. Whether you find us there, at Hawthorn Cove, Cathedral Park or the secret Swan Island spot, if you are swimming with us, you are diving into a new Portland culture.
– E. F.