Hundreds of ‘creek-keepers’ turn out at Watershed-Wide Event

See volunteers rally around outer East Portland ‘Spirit of Portland’ honoree Ed Kerns and others, as they volunteer their time to spruce up Johnson Creek …

At many sites, from Gresham to inner SE Portland, volunteers like these at Leach Botanical Garden help to restore the natural banks of Johnson Creek.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Interest in restoring and improving Johnson Creek, and its watershed, continues to increase.

This is what Matt Clark, Executive Director of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCW C) said, at the conclusion of the organization’s 13th annual “Watershed-Wide Event” on March 5.

“One of worksites drew 80 volunteers,” Clark enumerated, “and the site with the smallest group had about 25. In all, more than 350 people volunteered at our ten sites this morning!”

In addition to the good that this small army of weed-plucking, ivy-pulling, and bush-planting people did, Clark said the publicity for the event attracts new volunteers to the cause.

“Spirit of Portland” award winner leads group

In Lents, “Spirit of Portland” winner Ed Kerns oversees cleanup efforts, just south of the Springwater Trail.

We found a sizable crew working off SE Foster Road, led by Ed Kerns – who has long been associated with his work to improve and maintain the vegetation along outer East Portland’s Springwater Trail.

“We’re focusing on the Springwater Corridor today,” Kerns said. “It’s the 106-acre parcel called “Freeway Land II”, between SE 96th and 106th Avenues.”

Watershed-Wide Event volunteer Lora Martin smiles, and playfully strikes a “glamour pose” as she pulls out invasive plants.

“Today, we’re removing invasive species,” Kerns explains. “We’re taking out blackberry, ivy, English ivy, and holly. It looks like the volunteers are making good progress. Their efforts will really help clean up this area – which in turn will improve the water quality in Johnson Creek.”

Starbucks’ volunteers Calvin Banchette, Ryan Jasperson, and Jenn McPoland say they’re glad they traded their barista aprons for work gloves this day, as they uproot ivy south of the Springwater Trail.

Volunteering as a group, baristas from several Starbucks stores were on-site. “We think it is important to be involved in our community,” Jasperson told us. “This is in our neighborhood. The watershed is part of our community, and we want the involved in helping out.”

Leach Gardens benefited by bank-side brigade

On the banks of the rain-swollen Johnson Creek at Leach Botanical Garden, David Douglas High senior Aaron Keiffer, Lents resident John Notis, JCWC board member Teresa Huntsinger, Woodstock neighborhood’s Mike Ellison, and Friends of Leach Garden board member (“and I love five doors away”) George Taylor, finish planting the area.

A large work party split up to preen and clean both banks of Johnson Creek at Leach Botanical Gardens.

“It’s fun for me to be here this year,” commented JCWC board member Teresa Huntsinger. “Other years, I’ve worked on runoff sites – but here we’re right along the creek – and it’s roaring today!”

Sellwood’s Mat Millenbach and Lewis & Clark student Nick Chapoy, an intern with JCWC, take a short break from their volunteer efforts at Leach Gardens.

Throughout the area, Huntsinger said, volunteers were planting native plants that will provide habitat for wildlife and help shade the creek.

“We’ve been planning some big leaf maples and some “ninebark” shrubs,” she smiled.  “We have groups working in three different spots along the creek.”

JCWC volunteer Russ Stoll serves up another bowl of chili, this year donated by New Seasons Markets.

When we met up again with Matt Clark at one of their two celebratory lunches, Matt Clark said the Watershed-Wide Event “gives people an opportunity to ‘connect’ with where they live. Their work helps them forge a connection with the land, and with other volunteers who also work to benefit the Creek.”

We pointed out that many volunteers appeared to be having fun.

“I don’t see that being mutually exclusive!” responded Clark. “Getting out and volunteering can be lot of fun. And, volunteers walk away with satisfaction they helped improve part of their community – something that will be enjoyed for others for a long time.”

2011 JCWC Watershed-Wide Event, “By the Numbers”

  • 10        Sites
  • 350     Volunteers
  • 12        Bags of trash removed
  • 27        Cubic yards of evasive plants removed
  • 350      Plants mulched
  • 8,600 Trees/shrubs planted
  • 45        Sponsors and partners

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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