Hood River’s longest-running annual (sort of) event moves to a new location in 2019.
The Roy Webster Cross Channel Swim will go to a different channel — at Port of Cascade Locks’ Marine Park, rather than Best Western Plus Hood River Inn, its host site for more than 50 years. May 1 was the first day for online registration for this year’s swim, which was canceled in 2017 due to smoky conditions and in 2018 because of wind.
Hood River Chamber of Commerce announced the change this week to the Labor Day, Sept. 2 event. Chamber Director Mike Glover said the facility use agreement proposed by the hotel would have increased the cost per swimmer “significantly,” and a poll of 400 past participants showed a 60-40 percent opposition to the increased cost.
In addition, the poll revealed overwhelming willingness to participate at the new site, according to Glover.
“We considered the tradition of having the event in Hood River, but this is good for Cascade Locks, and we are a county-wide Chamber dedicated to economic development, and they are happy to have the event,” Glover said. “It’s a great location in a lot of ways.” A facility use agreement has been worked out with the Port of Cascade Locks.
The Chamber considered other Hood River routes, including The Spit and Waterfront Park, but had to look elsewhere due to critical logistics for the Sternwheeler. The vessel needs anchorage directly on the Washington side and this is not available adjacent to other Hood River locations.
Swimmers board the Sternwheeler Columbia on the Oregon shore, then ride the vessel to the Washington side, jump in and swim back.
Glover said that before the Chamber made the move, it confirmed it would have the same degree of volunteer support, because safety of the swimmers is the top priority. He said that the Chamber checked out the revised route with the Sternwheeler operators and with the Hood River County Sheriff Marine Patrol deputies.
The date of the event is the same, Labor Day, but the new location means an hour-later start — 6:30 a.m. check-in, 8 a.m. swim start, because the Sternwheeler is based in Cascade Locks and this eliminates travel time to Hood River.
The route will also be two-tenths of a mile longer.
According to Glover, the new route, and its currents and water conditions, will be tested by swimmers in June, and that will determine if the swim can officially proceed.