Johnson Creek ‘watershed-wide event’ preens Clatsup Butte property

Find out why outer East Portland efforts were focused on this particular hillside, high above the banks of Johnson Creek. You’ll discover why so many folks – from a variety of organizations – came out to help

High above Johnson Creek, and scattered across this Clatsop Butte hillside, dozens of volunteers remove invasive species of vegetation, and plant a variety of native trees. This section looks like a flat hill – but it steeply slopes down.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Come rain or shine, folks with a desire to help improve the health of Johnson Creek headed out for a day of volunteer service on he first Saturday of March – this year, March 3.

Instead of having a diffused effort, with small groups at several outer East Portland locations, volunteers with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) decided to focus their efforts during 14th Annual Watershed Wide Volunteer Restoration Event on just one area: Clatsop Butte.

We met up with Paul Grosjean, Vice Chair of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, as he was coming back for more supplies. “When this property was originally platted for development, we identified these 43.16 acres, and we thought would be really painful if it were developed. That would have meant taking out as many as 3,000 large trees in order to build 65 homes. It just seemed wrong.”

Paul Grosjean, Vice Chair of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, and Portland Parks & Recreation’s Mart Hughes, pause between planting sessions.

They worked for seven years to preserve the hillside, Grosjean added, before it was purchased by Portland Parks & Recreation with some help of the Bureau of Environmental Services. “When we first took over, the forest area over there was being destroyed by all-terrain vehicles and dirt bike motorcycle riders.  A good cooperative effort has stopped that. Today, we’re controlling watershed erosion, and making it beautiful again.”

Natural Resource Ecologist Mart Hughes of Portland Parks and Recreation added, “This natural area has been appended to the Clatsop Butte Park; there is a plan for the development of a neighborhood park. Here, we’re doing native woodland restoration, putting in Oregon Oak trees, and adding some edge plants – like big leaf maple, thimbleberry and snowberry, and English Hawthorne.”

Russell Mantifel, a JCWC Board member says the health of Johnson Creek starts by taking care of the land high above its banks within the watershed.

Just then, JCWC Board member Russell Mantifel happened along. “It’s good to see such a large number of volunteers turning out. It’s important for us to engage as many people as we can.”

Asked why this particular natural area, at least 1,000 feet above Johnson Creek, was of  particular interest to the organization, Mantifel thought a moment about the question.

“The health of Johnson Creek depends on not just the riparian areas around the creek, it also depends on the watershed itself,” Mantifel replied. “Retaining these green spaces, and planting native species that will filter the water and provide shade, are all part of creating an ecosystem that, in the end, leads to higher water quality, and the ability for Johnson Creek to become or remain a viable ecosystem.”

Irene Reyes, flanked by her kids Victor and Caroline, pauses during the morning of volunteer work at the Clatsup Butte site.

There were almost as many reasons to participate as there were volunteers.

An area student, Caroline Reyes, commented, “Being out here today is good, because it’s helping the environment. But also, I’m also doing something good for myself and for our planet.”

Another group that mustered a dozen volunteers to turn out at the site was the Oregon Hunters’ Association (OHA).

Members of the Oregon Hunters’ Association turn out every for the watershed-wide event every year, said spokesman Gerry Rondo, to help conserve natural areas for the benefit of all living things.

“We have as many as 20 or 30 OHA members when we’re working on Powell Butte – our group has taken the lead on restoration projects there,” commented the organization’s on-site spokesman, Gerry Rondo.

Asked why this project would be of interest to what – by name, at least – is an organization that promotes hunting, Rondo replied, “Good habitat is important for all living things. The Oregon Hunters Association is about conservation. Conservation is not the same as preservation. Preservation is a big mistake. Certain things, like old-growth forests, are almost gone because of ‘preservation’.”

The Johnson Creek watershed “goes on for many miles”, Rondo added. “It helps those who choose to fish, another form of hunting. It helps birds, ducks, and other kinds of wildlife, whether or not one chooses to hunt. If it’s good for all the wild species, it’s also good for humans.”

The sea of flags on the ground indicates the many plants and shrubs installed by volunteers at this outer East Portland natural site.

According to JCWC Executive Director Matt Clark, more than 300 people volunteered at a total of ten restoration sites, spanning 17 miles of this urban salmon stream – from Gresham on down to the where the creek runs into the Willamette River.

“Over the past thirteen years, our volunteers have dedicated their time to plant 42,000 native shrubs and trees, remove 53 tons of invasive weeds, and haul away 6 ½ tons of trash from streamside areas,” Clark said.

If you didn’t participate in this event, learn other ways that a few hours of your time can help JCWC make a real difference, right here in your community. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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