Proposals for ADA-accessible improvements to the waterfront park will be presented May 4 at City Hall.

The public will have the opportunity to preview proposed upgrades accessible to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at Gray Cliffs Waterfront Park in St. Helens.

St. Helens will hold a public forum, which will take place on Wednesday, May 4, in the Council Chambers of City Hall. The purpose of the 6:30 p.m. session is to examine in-water installation alternatives developed by the Oregon State Marine Board.

Plans for the in-water facility include a fully ADA-accessible paddle boat launch and an ADA-accessible fishing pier. A presentation of design alternatives will be reviewed during the public session and community feedback will be collected.

St. Helens is receiving assistance from the Oregon State Marine Board, through its Engineering Assistance Program, for planned improvements to the park area.

City officials have been planning for this since 2015, when it was included in a parks and trails master plan.

In 2019, St. Helens improved Gray Cliffs Waterfront Park by installing a waterfront paddle boat launch area, building new restrooms and a drinking fountain, and improving parking lots. These upgrades were paid for in part by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Recreational Trails Program.

The proposed in-water facility will complement the paddle boat launching area on shore.

Jenny Dimsho, Associate Planner and St. Helens Community Development Project Manager, said: “There are currently no in-water facilities at Gray Cliffs Park. you can lower your kayak if you have a rack.”

She continued, “But this in-water facility will provide a more accessible way for the ADA to enter the water.”

The in-water facility would have a submerged ramp to allow a park visitor to gradually enter the water. Dimsho described it as a “floating dock”.

“Your kayak goes down the ramp, and then you just migrate to the kayak,” Dimsho explained. “You can slowly step out into the water.”

She added: “These facilities are designed to be as easy as possible to enter the water.”

Although design and planning work is far enough along that St. Helens officials are seeking public input on what the Marine Board has come up with, there is no timeline yet for construction and opening of the facilities in the water.

“It’s definitely early in the process,” Dimsho said. “The Marine Board estimates, at a minimum, that design and clearance take about two years. That’s just because there’s a whole host of state and federal agencies that review the design and clear it.”

After the design and permitting process, St. Helens will apply for construction grants.

“There’s a history of the Marine Board using its technical assistance program to fuel its grant program,” Dimsho said. “Most likely they want to fund projects that they help design and authorize. It’s a less competitive grant than other grants might be.”

Located at the north end of River Street along the shore of the Columbia River, Gray Cliffs Waterfront Park is a scenic spot where you can launch a kayak or canoe to Sand Island.

The May 4 public forum takes place at 6:30 p.m., before the regular meeting of the municipal council. Those interested are invited to attend in person or virtually via Zoom, or watch the meeting on the St. Helens YouTube channel.


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