Portland’s Human Access Project (HAP) was conceived in November 2010 by founder and Ringleader, Willie Levenson. He simply wanted to swim in the Willamette River and got a little carried away.
HAP is a volunteer-driven, grassroots advocacy group dedicated to helping people “get into their river”.
Our little grassroots nonprofit was initially launched with a big shindig – a parade/float/beach party called The Big Float (TBF).
The idea behind TBF was to viscerally transform attitudes about Portland's Willamette River by creating a movement (disguised as a party) to change public perception of the river. The Big Float served as HAP’s annual fundraising event, but the party ended with our last blast - The Big Float X on July 10, 2022. HAP continues its work to this day.
Thanks to the Big Pipe installation, tests of Portland's Willamette River water quality indicate the river is safe for recreation. Pass it on! Riverbanks have been “unrocked” and cleaned up. Willamette River beaches have been unearthed. River access has improved and swimmers are jumping in (go River Huggers!). And there’s more on the horizon.
Here’s an excerpt about the Willamette River from “PORTLAND A Historical Sketch and Guide” by Terence O’Donnell and Thomas Vaughan.
“In the 1920s, the river through downtown was lost. From the beginning, the city’s water playground had also been the city’s sewer. Boat clubs declined the use of the river as did swimmers, lovers, fishermen and boys in skiffs. Also, now the river steamers stopped plying to wharf towns, their wakes no longer fanning the surface, their place taken by other forms of transportation.
Finally, in 1929 the downtown wharves were demolished and a seawall was built. The Willamette became a ditch and almost entirely disappeared from the city’s consciousness. In the Old World, every river had its god and the people honored him and carved his image on bridges and banks. Perhaps we will someday repay in part the debt we owe the Willamette for the many years it has given Portland both pleasure and profit.”
The debt we owe the Willamette River is now being repaid. Old negative viewpoints that have plagued our river for years are changing. People are starting to love, respect, and cherish their river. Amen to that!
The woman in our logo is Lady Neptune, our guiding spirit. As an Olympian god of seas and rivers, she is amphibious, able to communicate with all sea creatures, and carries an enchanted trident.