Waders at Keller Fountain breaking rules

Keller Fountain park's design, with steep drop-offs, not safe for children.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — While it’s a popular place for families to enjoy during the hot summer months, it’s actually against the rules to wade in the water at Keller Fountain.

In 2008, the City of Portland instituted a ban on wading at the multi-tiered Keller Fountain, directly across the street from the Keller Auditorium downtown.

But people do it anyway.

Keller Fountain and Lovejoy Fountain in Portland do not allow wading, and the primary concern is safety.

A young girl wades in Keller Fountain on a hot summer day in Portland, July 28, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A young girl wades in Keller Fountain on a hot summer day in Portland, July 28, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Four years ago, the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division reviewed all the fountains in the city. They designated Keller and Lovejoy as decorative fountains, unfit for swimming or wading.

The City of Portland had to go along, even though wading had been previously allowed.

“The filtration and chlorination system is old, and the new rules don’t encompass it,” said Mark Ross with Portland Parks and Recreation.

The steep drop-offs in the fountain make it nearly impossible to allow wading.

“No way without completely redesigning and building the fountain from the ground up how it could be determined safe under these new rules,” Ross said.

Despite the posted signs at the edge of the fountain, quite a few people told me the rules are hardly ever enforced.

“I was literally just here yesterday,” Jeremy Blagg said. “There were kids playing, families here.”

Ryan Green of Vancouver was wading and walking along the edges of the pools.

“It was fun. I had a good time,” he said. “As long as you’re sane and safe, I don’t see why it would be too big of an issue.”

Portland does have places where it’s OK to wade in the water, including Jamison Square and Salmon Street Springs.

As for Keller Fountain, Ross said park rangers will enforce the rules when they see them being broken.

“But there’s only so much you can do to make people change their behavior to follow the rules. At some point people have to take responsibility for their own safety and their own actions.”

The Keller Fountain was approved by the city in 1968 and renamed in 1978 for civic leader Ira Keller. He was the first chairman of the Portland Development Commission.

The concrete fountain is now a city landmark. Officials said 13,000 gallons of water per minute cascade over the nearly one-acre fountain.

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