Lake Oswego’s city council made it a crime to go from a public park to a public lake last week.
Safety, they claimed, is the issue. Yes, there are stairs leading from Millennium Park into the water of Oswego Lake, but the average Oswegan apparently can’t be trusted to safely walk down five stairs.
They could slip! They could fall! INTO WATER!
But are there are other ways onto the 400-acre lake? Probably. Now that the stairway is off limits, amphibious aircraft are an option.
As it turns out, you could easily land a floatplane outfitted with pontoons in the middle of the public lake that’s been claimed by wealthy squatters. At least according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration and a local pilot.
There aren’t any special regulations on seaplanes, says Mike Fergus, a regional spokesman for the FAA. When they’re in the air, they’re planes, subject to FAA rules. When they’re in the air or preparing to get into the air, they’re boats, subject to the state's Marine Board rules. Neither prohibits landing on Oswego Lake so long as it's done safely.
Homeowners might complain to the FAA. If so, the government would be happy to dispatch someone to politely ask the pilot if he or she wouldn’t mind not landing on the lake.
"In some cases, with noise complaints for example, we’ll go out and talk to the owner of the plane," says. "But if it’s part of that type of aircraft, there’s nothing we can do, legally. But we always go out and talk to them, and say 'Hey, we’ve got a little community relations issue here, we can’t tell you, but we’d sure appreciate it, if you could alter your flight path.'"
Tim Wiley, who operates Wiley’s Seaplane Base in Clackamas County just outside Oswego Lake, says landing on the lake could be easily done. In fact, it recently was.
"It is physically possible and it was done, in 2007, by a red Stinson seaplane,” he says. “It was plastered all over the Lake Oswego Review."
The incident Wiley is talking about, when a plane landed on the lake and a local snapped a photo, caused a minor furor at the time, with residents complaining and the corporation's private patrol scrambling to approach the pilot before he took off. That was five years ago, though, when more people were still confused about the lake’s public status.
The story, Wiley says, is that pilot from Texas bought a used plane stored at his base and landed on the big open lake nearby on a test flight without knowing anything about the lake's long history of exclusion.
For a trained seaplane pilot, a 400 acre lake is an easy landing strip, he says. Wiley’s only concern would be Marine Board rules, which close off some other Oregon Lakes, like Waldo Lake. Unlike Waldo Lake, however, the board’s rules on Oswego Lake don’t prohibit seaplanes. Today, the lake corporation's security force knows that the sheriff could arrest them for trying to stop someone from using the public lake.
"It’s certainly big enough to do it, that’s not an issue. Physically landing a seaplane on the lake is not a problem, that lake is plenty big to land and takeoff,” Wiley said. “But if they thought it was somehow illegal, they wouldn’t do it."