River Hugger Swim Team plunges into Willamette on weekdays: 'It's a beautiful thing'

River Hugger Swim Team prepares for a dip in the Willamette River on Monday, June 26 - KATU photo by Jackie Labrecque

PORTLAND, Ore. – A couple dozen people dove into the Willamette River Monday morning for the first River Hugger Swim Team meet of 2017.

The team is part of the Human Access Project, which is committed to getting more people in the Willamette River.

"It is a recreational protest swim looking to bring attention to the extreme deficit of water edge access opportunities in downtown Portland,” said Human Access Project leader Willie Levenson.

Levenson said the river is cleaner thanks to the big pipe project, which has stopped most of the city’s sewage overflows.

"This idea that it happens all the time is really fantasy. It used to happen all the time, it doesn't happen all the time anymore,” said Levenson. “So it's time for people to reevaluate their relationship with the river."

Levenson’s group also puts on The Big Float on July 15. They take off from Poet's Beach, located underneath the Marquam Bridge on the west banks of the Willamette.

Levenson said they have big plans for this spot.

"There's going to be a swim line added, life guards are going to be there eight hours a day. There's going to be picnic tables,” he said.

The River Hugger Swim Team meets all summer long for swims on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 a.m., and Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m.

"I love a city with a river running through it,” swimmer Christina Malango said. “It's a beautiful thing, and to have it clean enough, accessible enough and having some excitement for people to really be starting to swim in it is really fantastic and makes me really look forward to the future."

Levenson and the rest of the team invites any interested members of the public to come join their weekday swim club. You can find more information on the Human Access Project’s website.

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