WF Looking North Graphic

Willamette Falls Project | Oregon City

Grand Ronde, Ore. — Tribal leaders from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (CTGR) gathered on Tuesday, September 21 to commemorate the beginning of on-site demolition work at the former Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City. The private event marks the first time any large-scale demolition has occurred on the site since its closure and will continue in phases, in coordination with Oregon DEQ and remediation efforts.

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On August 15, 2019, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde purchased a 23-acre property at Willamette Falls that was formerly home to a Blue Heron Paper Company mill . The property, which sits on the east bank of the Willamette River in Oregon City, is located within the Tribe’s ancestral homelands land and holds significant historical and cultural importance for the Tribe.

The lands were once home to the Charcowah village of the Clowewalla (Willamette band of Tumwaters) and the Kosh-huk-shix Village of Clackamas people. They were 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.

Visioning for Blue Heron PDF

The Vision

Since acquiring the property, the Tribe has been working with a design team from GBD Architects and Walker | Macy to create a vision for the site. Focused on the central idea of healing, the vision will also be guided by the values of spirit, place, people, and prosperity.

At the site itself, that vision will come to life through:

  • Environmental restoration that will restore long-lost natural basalt landscape and water channels.
  • Native plantings and restored riparian habitat to benefit native fish, birds and other wildlife.
  • Thoughtful mixed-use development at the north end of the site that would visually and physically connect to the restored landscape.
  • Opportunities include office, hospitality, institutional or educational spaces, tribal areas, public gathering spots and a long-planned Riverwalk.
  • Opportunities to share the story of the Tribe and its historical and cultural connection to Willamette Falls.
  • Access to the falls for members of the Tribe and the general public.

The ownership of this property allows the Tribe to return to the role of stewards and caretakers of these lands, all while rebuilding this special piece of the Tribe’s homelands in the Tribe’s vision.

Environmental Stewardship

Part of bringing the Tribe’s vision for the Willamette Falls site to fruition involves environmental remediation from the past operations of the Blue Heron paper mill.

In August of 2019 the Tribe and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality came to agreement on terms for a clean-up plan at the site. Since then, the two entities have worked together to address multiple areas of concern while also identifying federal funding opportunities to help fund assessment and cleanup efforts on the property.

Tending to the environmental remediation needs will help ensure the Tribe’s vision can be fully implemented across the site.

Demolition Progress

The Tribe began demolition on the former Blue Heron paper mill on Tuesday, September 2, 2021. As demolition occurs, materials are sorted, and all recyclable materials are being recycled. Demo will continue in phases and in coordination with Oregon DEQ and remediation efforts.

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Blue Heron Jon George
Cheryle At Will Falls
Blue Heron Drummers
Zig Zag Border