Camp Cascadia, a protest to raise awareness of federal attempts to close, cap, and possibly privatize open air reservoirs at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, has declared success after more than four days of protest at Mt. Tabor in Portland Oregon. Beginning on July 12th and organized by community activists, concerned citizens, and Cascadia supporters, the event was featured in the Portland Mercury, The Willamette Week, the Portland Tribune, KGW, 750KXL as well as many other newspapers, blogs and radio interviews, spawning several community meetings, forcing a response from elected officials, and catapulting the issues to the front of public consciousness for the past week.
Since 2006, the city has fought a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that would force it to cover or do away with the scenic, open-air reservoirs in Mount Tabor and Washington Parks. Citizens are upset at what has been seen as years of stagnation in city hall to acquire a ‘LT2 waiver’ to the EPA mandate, which would opt Portland out of paying the huge costs for a system that many feel is working just fine. When the city council—with the exception of Commissioner Amanda Fritz—announced in June it had expended its legal options and would comply with the rule, outcry was instantaneous. Protestors—a coalition of Mount Tabor residents and water activists—widely characterize the decision as a giveaway to contractors with friends in city hall. They decry upcoming water rate increases, and want officials to pursue the same strategy as New York City, which has successfully delayed a requirement to cover an enormous reservoir.
Originally planned to be a 24 hour continual protest, organizers decided to scale back efforts the day before it began, instead staying in the park only during stated opening hours. The following days progressed without the drama of confrontation. Park rangers were present, but simply engaged in conversations while people passed the hours holding signs, passing out flyers, playing games, and enjoying the heat and sunshine.
Camp Cascadia was successful in that it raised peoples awareness of the issues of covering the Reservoirs. This increased awareness of what City Hall is doing is a great thing moving forward, and the impact it has had on helping individual and community involvement over watershed protection and encouraging public engagement has been an important step at keeping Portland policies, and the greater surrounding area, resilient, healthy and transparent.