Homeowner’s floodplain gets makeover from Johnson Creek crew

See what took place at this outer East Portland location during Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s annually “watershed-wide” event …

Property owners Shannon Raybold (holding Brennan) and her husband Travis (holding Freya) say they’re happy to have help restoring the floodplain along Johnson Creek at their home off SE 120th Avenue.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s pleasant to own a home in outer East Portland that runs up against Johnson Creek. But, Pleasant Valley Neighborhood homeowners Shannon and Travis Raybold found restoring the creek-side floodplain at the back of their property has been quite a challenge.

“We’ve already done some of the work on our own,” Travis told us, as he watched volunteers from the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) hard at work. “We’ve always dreamed of living in a place like this, and of restoring the native habitat here. But, it’s a real challenge, especially when you have two small kids.”

Just getting to the work area was a test of physical prowess – it lay about 150 feet below the level of their back yard – accessible only by a steep, side-sloped trail. But the terrain didn’t keep a platoon of folks participating in the JCWC’s 11th Annual Watershed-Wide Event on March 7. Additionally, these hearty volunteers carried tools, plants, and supplies down to their bucolic worksite in rain.

JCWC Watershed Wide Event volunteers Annette Mattson (left, yellow raincoat) and local resident Suzie Wolfer (kneeling) pull up invasive species, as other workers plant native growth.

We walked past Annette Mattson, an outer East Portland resident who serves on the David Douglas School District Board. “I really care about the Johnson Creek watershed,” she said. “I live in this neighborhood. This is a great way to help out, and make a difference in our community right in my own neighborhood.”

Mattson was working with neighbor Suzie Wolfer, who told us, “I live a couple of houses down and I’ve walked throughout this area for 14 years. I single-handedly have trimmed ivy off the trees since I’ve moved here. It’s like heaven to see how these volunteers are helping the watershed.”

JCWC’s Restoration Project Manager, Greg Ciannella, pauses for a moment with board member Rick Attanasio at the outer East Portland restoration site.

Restoring an ‘incredible asset’
Greg Ciannella, JCWC’s Restoration Project Manager, said he thought that so many volunteers come out for the watershed-wide event because they recognize that “Johnson Creek is an incredible asset to the community. It supports a lot of great fish and wildlife habitat.”

At this site, Ciannella said, they were removing invasive species, and replanting the creek’s floodplain with native growth. “We’re trying to increase biodiversity and, at the same time, increase the shade over the creek, to help provide cold water for salmon during the warmer summer months.”

With about 25 volunteers at the site, Ciannella said, “It’s great opportunity to bring the community out, and get them engaged in stewardship and engaged in Johnson Creek.  They’re helping us get a lot of work done.”

We met JCWC board member Rick Attanasio as he and other volunteers were carrying native trees down the steep, slick trail.

“I volunteer because I love the creek, even though I don’t live close by,” explained Attanasio. “I think this is a key watershed. If the creek stays healthy, it leads the way for the rest of the area.”

One of the benefits of participating in this event is the hot home-cooked lunch served afterward. These gals, Portland State University students Adrianne Huston, Savannah Buck, and Kristina Coy, say the chili is really good – especially after a hard morning’s work.

Chili feed warms weary workers
A little past noon, many of the 320 volunteers start to filter into the JCWC office for a substantial lunch – featuring the flavorful chipotle chili lovingly prepared by JCWC’s outreach associate, Marty Urman.

There, the organization’s Executive Director, Matt Clark, said the volunteers who worked at 10 sites in the watershed, from Ambleside in East Gresham on down to Johnson Creek Park, about half a mile up from the confluence of the Willamette, were vitally important to their work.

“Our mission is to facilitate community involvement in the Johnson Creek Watershed,” Clark began. “Mobilizing volunteers to provide stewardship of the watershed helps them gain a sense of ownership.”

In an urban environment, Clark said, natural areas are important. “People benefit from having natural areas around them – places they can go out and recreate; it’s important to an individual’s well-being. We all benefit from having clean water in our creek, especially the fish. In fact, folks just found a couple of steelhead in Reed Canyon.”

Everyone says they love Marty Urman’s fabulous chili. Her secret ingredient, confides Marty, is chipotle chilies. “It’s not burn-your-mouth hot, but they sure do have a lot of flavor don’t they?” she says.

You can help
To learn more about how the Johnson Creek Watershed Council helps improve the livability of our area – and how YOU can get involved – check their website, by CLICKING HERE.

©2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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