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Warning signs go up where Oregon family drowned

By STEVEN DUBOIS
Of the The Associated Press

PORTLAND — Warning signs have been placed at the popular Oregon lake where four members of a family drowned last month.

The Washington County parks department posted temporary signs Monday at Henry Hagg Lake, two days after a local activist was given a $5,000 ticket for criminal mischief because he ignored orders not to bolt his own warning signs into posts and trees.

Michael Medill, 66, of Gaston has been part of a group seeking signs warning of a sharp drop-off in the lake since 2012, when eight children nearly drowned. The four recent deaths led him to press the issue further.

“I was ready to go to jail Saturday,” said Medill, who is scheduled to see a judge Oct. 7.

Workers will start posting permanent signs by the end of the week, said Phillip Bransford, spokesman for the county administrative office.

Nobody witnessed the Aug. 25 drownings at the lake west of Portland. The dead were a 3-year-old boy and his mother, grandmother and uncle.

Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Ray said the action taken Monday was in the works before Medill took matters into his own hands. He said Medill ignored repeated requests not to post the signs.

“We encourage people to be actively engaged in their community, but we also encourage them to do it the legal way and the right way,” Ray said. “He was very persistent and pushy, and he made sure he did the things he needed to do to get arrested, to get more attention for his efforts.”

Medill contends the signs wouldn't have gone up Monday without the extensive newspaper and television coverage he attracted.

“They're listening; this is getting through,” he said. “Just me wasn't enough. The media attention is what's making this happen.”

The permanent signs in English and Spanish warn visitors about steep drop-offs and encourage them to wear life vests.

Officials plan to place them at the park's entrance near Scoggins Dam and at popular spots along the lake's 14 miles of shoreline. They also are considering adding more life-vest kiosks, as well as maps showing recommended places to swim.

The lake is a draw for boaters, fishermen and swimmers, attracting 750,000 visitors a year.

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