Rowing at the Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center at Roehr Park in Lake Oswego began in the Spring of 1993, operated by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Lake Oswego, who contracted the rowing programs out to Oregon Rowing Unlimited. In 1995 the City took over the rowing programs from ORU and continued to offer rowing and other water sports programs to the community through 1997.
However, by 1996 the facility was operating at an annual loss of almost $75,000 and the city council decided to look into discontinuing operations of the facility. In late 1996, a group of adult rowers and parents of youth rowers had organized together to form the Lake Oswego Rowing Club Foundation (LORCF) with the goal of raising funds to help support rowing programs at the Water Sports Center. Although the original intent of the Foundation was to assist in non-operational or administrative functions (fundraising, regatta help, publicity), by the spring of 1997 it became clear that the Rowing Foundation was seen by the City as a group that might be able to take over the full operation of the Water Sports Center, thus fulfilling the City’s desire to offer rowing and other programs to the community. The City’s other options at the time were to tow the building upriver to Salem (Willamette University), sell it or rent it to Lewis and Clark or Station L (whose shared barge located under the Fremont Bridge had sunk), or sell the equipment and abandon the programs altogether. There was much initial reluctance by LORCF to take on such a large and financially risky task, especially since the original focus had been in a different direction and of a much smaller scope. However, it soon became obvious that if LORCF did not step in then Lake Oswego and the surrounding community was going to lose rowing.
After almost one full year of negotiations, the City Manager’s Office and LORCF came up with a plan wherein LORCF and the City would be partners in operating the Water Sports Center as a rowing facility. The City would provide the building, equipment, registration, some maintenance, and start up cash; LORCF would operate all rowing programs and provide coaching, administration, and some maintenance. Approval by the Lake Oswego City Council was the last hurdle. The proposal was for the city to help subsidize the rowing programs and in exchange the community would continue to have a unique rowing facility. If the City Council did not agree, then rowing in LO would be abandoned. There was much discussion and two tie votes, but the city council finally agreed to offer LORCF a one-time-only $25,000 cash payment, free use of the facility, and a three-year contract in exchange for a community rowing program offered to adults of all ages and abilities and children over the age of 13.
In March of 1998, Lake Oswego Rowing Club offered its first classes. The jobs of Dockmaster and Dock Assistants that had been so costly to the city (more than $30,000 for the Dockmaster) were to be performed by volunteers. The only paid positions were the coaches. Eventually, the “Club” part of the name was discarded in favor of the more inclusive and accurate designation “Lake Oswego Community Rowing.”
Since those early years, the mission of LOCR has been to promote the sport of rowing in a positive environment to anyone in the community who wishes to row.