I often see kids swimming in the Keller Fountain, which makes me nervous for their safety. I confess that it's also annoying to deal with screaming kids on my lunch break. Is it legal for people to swim in the city's fountains? —No Swimming
Personally, I'm in favor of letting kids swim where they want. Of course, I'm also in favor of letting them smear their bodies with raw liver while lying down in the lions' enclosure at the zoo. I guess I'm just one of those guys who likes a good laugh.
That said, you've touched on what may be the central problem of modern childhood: No matter how innocuous the activity, somewhere there's a child dumb enough to get killed doing it. This is why, historically, there's always been a fine line between "good clean fun" and "culling the herd."
Of course, these days safety concerns tend to win out over the good-natured maiming of yesteryear, and the massive, multi-chambered fountain across from Keller Auditorium is no exception.
"Keller is not designed for swimming or wading," says Portland Parks and Recreation's Mark Ross. "There are water-quality and design concerns, and people should be strongly discouraged from taking a dip." He adds that they're stepping up enforcement of the no-swimming policy at Keller.
But lest you think PP&R is all dry, joyless safety, Ross points out that they do have "splash pads" at a number of parks, "where getting wet is legal and encouraged."
These splash pads feature steel sculptures which spray water on your skeptical children. They look extremely safe, and not un-fun, I guess. Especially if your child has always fantasized about getting peed on by a jungle gym. Still, in this litigious age, that's about the best we can do.