A view of Willamette Falls from the air.

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.

“This is a special time for our people as we begin our work as stewards of the falls,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman of the CTGR. “We are excited to begin the healing process for this land as well as take the first steps towards real progress in bringing our vision for this site to life.”

The Tribe shared its Vision for the site in March 2021. That vision is focused on healing the land through extensive ecological restoration, celebrating the site’s tribal connection, and bringing the public back to tumwata/Willamette Falls.  The site’s restoration efforts will focus on the natural basalt landscape and water channels underneath defunct industrial buildings, re-establishing native plantings and restoring riparian habitat for native fish, birds and other wildlife.

“Getting to see actual demolition begin on-site was so exciting, after ten long years of discussion since the paper mill closed. We’ve been working hard towards this goal since acquiring the property and are proud to see the tangible impact begin,” said Chris Mercier, Vice Chair of the CTGR. “This is a major step forward for the project and to reintroducing the general public to this special place.”

In addition to the restoration work, the Tribe envisions a mixed-use development at the northern end of the site. Any potential development would visually and physically connect to the restored landscape and could include office space, hospitality, institutional or educational spaces, as well as tribal spaces, public gathering spots, restaurants, retail, and public access to tumwata/Willamette Falls.