Pirates swarm Columbia Slough; share booty – and knowledge

See why these swashbuckling pirate crews were giving – instead of taking – at the annual gathering at their pirate’s cove in outer East Portland …

Shelly “Shark-Fin” Hsu, “Marissa the Thief” Arnett, and Mckenzie “Sword-master” Wells check guests in, at the pirate-themed Aquifer Adventure.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Once again this year, the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) and Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) teamed up to produce the 2011 “Aquifer Adventure”.

The afternoon of September 17, PWB’s Canoe Launch at NE 166th at Airport Way was the scene of this free pirate-themed “groundwater treasure hunt”.

At this annual fun family festival, pirates and their crews don’t plunder from the kids and adults who come by – they give them gifts, and teach them about the importance of groundwater – while playing games, and going on a treasure hunt.

Patty the Pillager” Robards (all the crew members use a “pirate name”) helps kids negotiate the “groundwater maze”.

PWB’s director, David “Pirate King” Shaff rewards Jamie and Amy Methvin for discovering his “treasure”, while on their hunt.

When asked what his favorite reason is for participating in “Aquifer Adventure”, David Shaff, Director of the Portland Water Bureau, said, “It’s being the Pirate King.”

Shaff continued, “The whole idea behind this is to make this a fun experience for kids as they get to know a little bit more about the aquifer – and for some of their parents to learn about where their water comes from.”

PWB’s groundwater well system in the Columbia Slough area is the second largest source of finished drinking water in the State of Oregon, Shaff reminded. “It is our supplemental supply when we need it in the summer, and our emergency supply of when we need it in the winter. The more that people know about groundwater, they better they can help protect it.”

By carrying gallon jugs of water around a course several times, here on the Columbia Slough pathway, Mileah and Shon Davis get a real idea of how much water they use when taking a five-minute shower. “It’s a lot!” Shon says.

CSWC Executive Director “Capt’n Jane” Van Dyke, and Outreach Director “Admiral Melissa the Pearl of the Sea” Sandoz, meet up with PWB’s groundwater protection manager “Capt’n Reefside Rebecca”. Most of this conversation consisted of “Arrrrr, ayeeee,” and “Avast ye swabies”, as we recall.

Rebecca Geisen, PWB Groundwater Protection Manager, said she particularly enjoys seeing families return to the pirate romp year after year.

“They often wear T-shirts from past years,” said Geisen. “I’ve heard, from a couple of families today, that their kids ask when Aquifer Adventure is returning, and they can’t wait to come back. For me that is really gratifying. It means it we’re doing our job – making groundwater, as a topic, fun…and welcoming people to be here.”

In total, about 40 volunteers helped put on the program, Geisen  added, in addition to PWB staff members. “It wouldn’t be possible to put this on without them.”

Mr. Woo (Jeff Inlay) and Mr. E (Eric Levine) of The Alphabeticians play and entertain at the event.

The highlight for many visitors to the Aquifer Adventure is a guided canoe ride in the scenic Columbia Slough with their new pirate friends.

CSWC Executive Director Jane Van Dyke said folks from their organization are pleased to partner with PWB. “One of the goals of the Watershed Council to encourage people to get out and learn more about the watershed, and about things they can do – to not only protect groundwater by not overusing pesticides and being resourceful with their use of water, but also to know more about areas of the Columbia Slough: The park trail, the boat launch, and generally to learn more about ‘good watershed health’.”

To learn more about the Columbia Slough Watershed Council – and to access maps, learn about their educational programs, and learn about facilities in the area – see their website: CLICK HERE. To learn more about the Portland Water Bureau itself, CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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