Local anglers build platform for public, disabled access

Scott Swanson

Anglers who are disabled will soon have much better access to fish in the South Santiam River, thanks to a new platform built by local members of the Northwest Steelheaders.

Members have been putting some finishing touches on the approximately 20- by 20-foot structure.

The structure stands just below the inflow from Ames Creek, next to the Pleasant Valley boat ramp.

It includes a railing with a dip that will allow an angler in a wheelchair to fish over it.

Also, the location of the platform allows access to the rocks directly to the north.

Also, paved parking has been installed next to the platform that will allow anglers with handicap permits to exit their vehicles next to the structure. Most of the work was done over the Christmas holiday, said George Larson of Albany, president of the local chapter.

He said the project has been in the works among club members for “several years” and finally came to fruition in the last 18 months, when the club applied for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Restoration and Enhancement funding.

“Several people said they wanted to do this, but unfortunately, nobody ever got around to applying for grant money,” he said.

Bill Nyara of Sweet Home, a former chapter president, said “this is something we’d been kicking around for eight or nine years. It takes lots of effort to obtain the grant.”

Larson said the club received just over $23,000 for the project.

“It’s an angler access issue,” he said, “especially with the ADA part of it. We were approved on the first try. We’re very pleased with the result.”

Larson said the approximately 150 local Steelheader members hail from all over the Mid-Valley, which is why the former Albany chapter changed its name to the Mid-Valley Chapter. They meet at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Albany Senior Citizens Center, 489 Water Ave. NW, except for July and August.

He said the Steelheaders used to spend a lot of time helping the staff at the South Santiam Fish Hatchery with salmon and steelhead tagging and egg harvesting, but the need for their assistance has declined.

“Now the hatchery is so improved, to go up there is almost a privilege,” he said, semi-jokingly. “We stand around with our hands in our pockets.”

Club members been involved in a variety of projects around the Mid-Valley.

They installed an aeration windmill at EE Wilson Pond outside Monmouth last summer and their next endeavor will be improvements to boat slides on the Alsea River.

They have also done a lot of work at Cheadle Lake in Lebanon in recent years. That project included a boat ramp installation, walkways, gravel for the parking lot, a pump station and an ADA fishing platform.

“That was kind of the impetus for the Sweet Home project,” Larson said.

The labor is all-volunteer and the group will travel.

“We try to stay busy,” Larson said. “Most of us are retired, so clocks don’t mean much to us.”

He noted that the platform is located directly above “a really nice hole,” at a height of six to 15 feet above the surface, depending on the water level. Disabled anglers may need a helper to net fish, he said.

“It’s just a really cool thing,” he said. “Hopefully, people realize they should take care of it. Basically, they’re getting it for free.”