The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has completed its acquisition of the former Blue Heron paper mill site, and plans to continue the vision already set forth by the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, including the planned Riverwalk.
In a press release, the Tribe confirmed the completed purchase of the 23-acre property from Washington developer George Heidgerken. The site is located within the Tribe’s ancestral homelands and holds significant historical and cultural importance.
Once home to the Charcowah village of the Clowewalla (Willamette band of Tumwaters) and the Kosh-huk-shix Village of Clackamas people, the area is part of the lands ceded to the United States government under the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855. Following the Willamette Valley Treaty, tribal members were forcibly removed from Willamette Falls and relocated to Grand Ronde.
“This is a historic day for the Grand Ronde Tribe and our people,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. “Since 1855, the government has worked to disconnect our people from our homelands. Today, we’re reclaiming a piece of those lands and resurrecting our role as caretakers at Willamette Falls.”
The Tribe has been working with various local, regional and state partners throughout the sale process to shape the future of the property. The Tribe has worked with Metro and Willamette Falls Trust on the Willamette Falls Riverwalk Project and established a clean-up plan with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Willamette Falls Legacy Project staff and Grand Ronde tribal leaders have worked together to better understand what their collaborative partnership will look like moving forward. Metro, on behalf of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, holds an easement to build the Riverwalk along the Blue Heron paper mill site’s waterfront.
The Riverwalk, still set to break ground next year, is the critical first component of the larger Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a collaboration between Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon — and now, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
Design and engineering is underway on the first phase of the Riverwalk, the initial designs of which were unveiled in 2017. The project is planned to give public access to Willamette Falls for the first time in 150 years.
The Tribe placed the property under a purchase and sale agreement back in May. The Tribe hopes to begin work on the site as quickly as possible.