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State looks to ban island camping on the Willamette in Eugene

A temporary ban is set to begin on May 15 with a proposed permanent ban by 2020.

Posted: Apr 15, 2019 6:46 PM
Updated: May 7, 2019 10:11 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Starting May 15, a temporary ban will go into effect that will put an end to camping on islands in the Willamette River in Eugene as state leaders look to make the ban permanent to combat homeless camping.

Ryan Turner with Eugene City Parks & Open Space said they believed the city owned the islands until they discovered they were under state control over a year ago. The State Land Board is issuing the ban, which will prohibit recreation from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and ban campfires on the islands between Randy Papé Beltline and the Interstate 5 bridge.

Records show that between Jan. 1, 2017, and July 18, 2018, Eugene City Parks Divison cleaned 44 camps on islands in the Willamette River.

Turner said campers get to the islands during low flows by making bridges and using makeshift boats. Turner said they have cleaned up trash, needles and human waste at the camps.

"With really historically high flows like this, there is a lot of trash that floats downstream," Turner said.

State leaders will have to submit a formal rule change to make the ban permanent, then the State Land Board will have to vote to approve it after a public comment period. A spokeswoman for the State Land Board said they hope to have the ban go into effect by 2020.

Eugene resident Brandon Reinke said he supports the ban but feels more services like shelters and affordable housing are needed.

"It's just kicking the can down the road," Reinke said. "They need come up with a spot that everyone can agree on."

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