Access to Oswego Lake more likely

The fight over public access to Tony Oswego Lake, which is off-limits to almost all Oregonians, reached a new milestone last week.

Following the second phase of a trial over whether non-residents of Lake Oswego can use the lake for recreation, a Clackamas County jury told Judge Kathie F. Steele that the general public should be allowed access to the waters from the Millennium Plaza Park at the eastern end of the lake.

That’s not the last word on the case that has been winding its way through Oregon courts since Mark Kramer and Todd Prager first sued for access in 2012 (“Locking Up Oswego Lake,” WW, April 11, 2012). Kramer wanted to put his kayak in the water and Prager wanted to swim in the lake.

The case went to the Oregon Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the Clackamas County Circuit Court to answer two questions: are the lake’s waters public (a judge ruled in 2023 that they are) and if so, what should be the solution?

The jury considered a series of questions last week after a two-week trial. Judge Steele will now make a final ruling in the coming months. That order likely follows the jury’s guidelines, even if it doesn’t have to.

Prager applauded the result. “The jury’s decision protects the fundamental rights of who we are as Oregonians,” he said. “The city of Lake Oswego is at a crossroads. Do they want to continue spending taxpayer money so that a private company can monopolize access to a public resource, or are they willing to work with Oregonians to realize their rights to a state lake?