Hundreds of volunteers turn out to boost Creek’s health

Here’s the wrap-up of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council 2013 Watershed-Wide Clean-up event …

Here, volunteering during the Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s Watershed-Wide Clean-up at Errol Heights Park, are Jeff Horne and Ethan Horne, who make their home in the Richmond Neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For years, on the first Saturday in March, hundreds of volunteers have been turning out to help improve the health and well being of Johnson Creek.

This year, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) Watershed-Wide Clean-up took place on March 2 – at a dozen locations spanning from its confluence with the Willamette River, upstream on out to Gresham.

East Portland News toured two nearby sites: Errol Heights Park in Brentwood-Darlington, and along the Springwater Trail in the Lents Neighborhood.

Logan Lauvray, Green Space Manager at Friends of Trees, and Johnson Creek Watershed Council Board Member Celeste Mazzacano, get ready to plant more shrubs in Errol Heights Park.

Volunteers swarm Errol Heights Park
Working in the west end of Errol Heights Park, just off SE 44th Avenue and SE Tenino Drive, a total of about 75 volunteers – including those participating directly in the JCWC Watershed Wide Event, and others from Friends of Trees – spent the morning cleaning up this relatively unknown natural City Park.

“We’re also planting about 260 native shrubs,” Johnson Creek Watershed Council Board Member Celeste Mazzacano told East Portland News.

“We’re putting in Mulberry, Serviceberry, Big-Leaf Maple, Snowberry, and Big-Leaf Lupine,” Mazzacano said. “Our effort today will turn this bare-looking wasteland, once covered with ivy and blackberry, into a nice mixture of perennial plants that will help the watershed and help catch and filter rainwater runoff before it gets to Johnson Creek.”

Some 75 volunteers from two organizations here plant native species, to help filter the rainwater runoff that finds it way into nearby Johnson Creek.

It’s clear there are no salmon in this park, located high above Johnson Creek.

“This is the riparian buffer zone,” Mazzacano explained. “Because this area is 500 feet of the stream, everything that happens here – good or bad – all affects the Creek.”

Springwater Corridor gets spruce-up

Volunteers along the Springwater Corridor pull out loads of invasive species and trash from along the trail.

We expected to see – and found – volunteer Ed Kerns, directing the activity along the Springwater Trail on either side of SE Flavel Street during the event.

“I’ve been coordinating tree plantings and general cleanup efforts along the Corridor, mostly in the Lents neighborhood, for quite a while now,” Kerns said.

JCWC Executive Director Matt Clark spends a moment with perennial Springwater Corridor keeper, Ed Kearns.

“I work mostly with kids from students to come out to help from Lent and Kelly Elementary Schools, and from David Douglas High School. Over the last 17 years we’ve had at least 400 plantings, and put in at least 40,000 native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers.”

About the JCWC Watershed-Wide Event, Kerns was enthusiastic, “Oh, I love the Watershed Council. They are one of Portland’s treasures of an organization.  I’m very devoted to Johnson Creek, and anything we can do to improve the health of Johnson Creek is time well spent.”

Johnson Creek is one of the great amenities of outer East Portland, opined Kerns. “It’s been so abused over the last 150 years; I’m glad to see it receive so much positive attention and restoration.”

Volunteer Banks Upshaw pulls out invasive species – and trash, from a ditch just south of SE Flavel Street.

Even though Johnson Creek isn’t evident along that portion of the Springwater Trail, JCWC Executive Director Matt Clark pointed out, “The creek is close by, a half block away.

“Is not just about the Creek, our work is also about habitat throughout the watershed, including land is not right adjacent to the Creek. The whole ecosystem is connected – that is what makes our work here today, with Ed, important.”

Volunteers ‘make his day’
“In addition to restoring Johnson Creek, helping to increase its ecological recovery, people tell us they enjoy being outdoors and volunteering with others,” Clark observed.

Meeting new friends while helping improve the environment is what draws them to events like the Watershed-wide Clean-up, say volunteers Will Reese, Janet Soto, and Nick Stack.

“And, this event is, for many of our volunteers, their first introduction to JCWC,” Clark added. “From here, they usually join us in other events – both helping to restore the creek, and letting people know that Johnson Creek is still here, and improving. Seeing so many volunteers participating really makes my day.”

After the 15th annual JCWC Watershed Wide event was over, Clark reported a total 8,950 plants installed, 20 cubic yards of invasive plants removed, 50 bags of garbage picked up, and 7 yards of mulch spread.

“We thank our volunteers for all they do,” Clark said. “Because of them, Johnson Creek’s health is being restored.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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