HAP History - The Big Idea

The Human Access Project was conceived in November 2010, when founder Willie Levenson began organizing an event called “The Big Float.”  The Big Float (TBF) is a group innertube float of the Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon.  The idea behind TBF is that getting a large number of people in the water, in human-powered water vessels of all kinds, would be a powerful way to demonstrate that the Willamette is safe for swimming and human habitation. The goal was to viscerally change attitudes about the river and transform Portland's relationship with it. 


TBF had its first launch in 2011 with 1,300 participants.  2012 was the second year for TBF, and the event attracted 1,400 participants. The even has continued to grow each year. Money raised from TBF, and from grants and sponsors, has helped HAP take on more projects every year, and get more done.


Beyond TBF, the Human Access Project has completed several Willamette River beach clean-up and habitat restoration projects, which are ongoing. One is on the eastside of the river by the Hawthorne Bridge at Audrey McCall Beach. HAP has to date removed 50 yards of concrete during six individual clean up events at this beach. Another project is beach creation effort on the west side of the Willamette River. HAP hosted a community kickoff event called UnRock the Bowl, where 60 volunteers moved riprap rock from the water’s edge back to the bank where it was initially installed 30 years ago as bank protection.  HAP will continue to undertake beach clean-up activities to support its mission.


We have made progress working with the City of Portland. We advocated for putting up "Swim at your own risk" signage at the Tom Mc Call Bowl and the City agreed (sign below). It gets across the idea that swimming is indeed an option, showing that the water quality is safe.