Oswego Lake: It Ain’t Broke, So No Need to Fix It

Lake Oswego residents spoke out in favor of preserving Oswego Lake's status as a private lake with limited public access at a recent Planning Commission meeting.

If Oswego Lake were human, it would be blushing right now. Monday night, citizen after citizen stood up before the city planning commission to sing its praises as everything from, “a jewel,” to what “anchors our community.”

The occasion wasn’t  a love-fest for Oswego Lake. Rather it was a rallying cry to convince the planning commission to keep the lake operating as it has been for the past 70 years under the stewardship of the Lake Oswego Corporation and limiting public access to both the Lake Grove Swim Park and city-owned swim park on Ridgeway. I agree.

The lake is why I moved here over 26 years ago. My wife and I bought a small two bedroom cottage on the canal and began a lifetime of memories for our three kids and their friends. At the time we could have gotten more house for our money I’m sure but having lake access was our most important criteria in moving here so we gave up square footage and updated appliances for having water in our backyard.

As a Realtor over those same 26 years, I have seen clients weigh that same decision when buying a home. Where does lake access fall in the pecking order of their priorities? If it’s at the top of the list, then they look at waterfront, or at one of the over 3,000 homes with easement rights. Or they buy in the Lake Grove school district boundaries so they can use the Lake Grove Swim Park or decide that the city operated Ridgeway Park, open to all Lake Oswego residents, will suit them just fine.

People decide where to live for a variety of reasons—school boundaries, access to the I-5 corridor, community pools, walking distance to downtown. I don’t live within the Greentree Pool boundary and I’m not going to complain about not having access because that was a decision I made.  My kids have still managed to swim there often enough thanks to friends, just as those friends have enjoyed the lake because of us.  Lake access is just one factor in choosing a home and if it’s important to Lake Oswego homebuyers or renters, there are options.

Whether you live on the lake or not, the quality of life enjoyed in Lake Oswego is influenced by it. Visually, it’s a highlight that the city has taken great measures to capitalize on in the placement of its parks such as Millennium Plaza and Sundeleaf. Recreationally, generations of kids have grown up swimming in the lake either at the Lake Grove Swim Park or Ridgeway Park. Citizens have enjoyed the 4th of July ski show from Lakewood Bay and the wooden boat show, also a summer highlight. The ooh’s and aah’s resonate from the Lake Grove Swim Park as the 4th of July fireworks show, largely financed by shareholder dues, lights up the sky for all to enjoy. Economically, the value that the lake adds to waterfront properties comes back to feed our community through higher property taxes that help to keep our schools top rate.

This lake, that we treasure, however, is a fragile resource. I know firsthand. We lived several summers where algae plagued water, particularly in our canal, proved a challenge for the Lake Corporation stewards. Residents who didn’t live on the lake would joke about the “pea soup” and incredulously ask, “How can you swim in that?” as if to suggest you’d have to be crazy to pay top dollar to live on the shores of this pea-green body of water.

But the lake stewards didn’t waiver and stayed the course to find a solution to the lake’s unique water management needs. It came at a price for Lake Corporation shareholders, but it was one we were willing to pay. The delicate balance to the lake appears to have been restored, but it depends on careful management of usage. Oswego Lake is small. It cannot accommodate uncontrolled recreational activity without risking safety, enjoyment and water quality.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Many citizens cited this feeling at the meeting, with cries of “Where’s the public outcry?” and “Where’s the clamor?” This lake is a thriving urban lake—a rare breed in this country, where other urban lakes have fallen into decline due to over-crowding and invasive species brought in from other waters. There is a system in place for taking care of it—private fund raised by shareholders who have a stake in protecting the water quality.

Why, especially now, when governments are being forced to cut back, cut out, and do with less, would we want to entrust the care of this fragile resource to government funding when what we are doing is working? Why would we risk jeopardizing the progress the Lake Corporation has made in improving the water quality, enabling all residents of Lake Oswego to point to Oswego Lake as “a jewel?” We’ve got something unique here made possible by a unique solution.

I’m glad that citizens turned out in force to reinforce that opinion, convincing the planning commission to continue to keep Oswego Lake private. It’s in good hands, ensuring that this important asset to our community that provides aesthetic beauty, recreational opportunities, increased property values and property tax revenues will continue to play its role in keeping Lake Oswego a special place to live.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Let me know.

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About lovelakeoswego

I feel pretty lucky—I live where I work and I love where I live. As a Realtor in Lake Oswego, I get to share that enthusiasm with clients every day. Through this blog, with the help of my freelance writer wife, Genita, I’d like to share that enthusiasm with you. The quality of life you’ll find in Lake Oswego belies its size—there is so much to experience here from a fireworks show over the lake on the 4th of July to the Festival of the Arts--one of the premier arts events in the region. So please check in each week for another reason why I love Lake Oswego and who knows—maybe you’ll fall in love too! If you’re interested in experiencing Lake Oswego personally, please feel free to contact me either on my cell at (503) 939-9801, via email at costellok@hasson.com or check my website by clicking the link in the "Contact me" section in the right hand column. I would love to show you around.
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