Parks Director pitches in, pulling weeds on Springwater Trail

You may be amazed at the good turnout in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood on “No Ivy League” day this year …

Volunteer Paul Rayburn pauses from digging out Himalayan blackberry bushes along the Springwater Trail, in the Powellhurst Gilbert neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For the fourth year in a row, folks came out late in September on a Saturday morning, as members in the annual “No Ivy League” – a day dedicated removing ivy, and other invasive species, from public areas and parks.

About 20 folks associated with the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), came to the site along the Springwater Trail at 128th Avenue, on October 24.

Powellhurst-Gilbert’s perennial “Green Committee” Chair Dolores Wood says taking out invasive species allows native plants and animals to thrive in the area.

“For several yeas, we’ve been restoring this area, so the native plants and animals have a better chance to survive,” said organizer Dolores Wood. “When we have our hot scorching summers, this area dries out, because the non-native species choke out native plants, and robs the water that they need to survive the dry months.”

Although it’s “No Ivy League” day, they pull out more than just ivy, Wood told East Portland News. “In fact, one of the plants we’re taking today is Atropa bella-donna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade. It’s toxic to most small animals, like squirrels and other mammals.”

Volunteers Mason Wordell and Sierra Betolone-Smith work with Johnson Creek Watershed Council Outreach and Riparian Specialist and AmeriCorps member Janel Hull.

The importance of this volunteer wildland work to the Powellhurst Gilbert neighborhood, she said, is that “it not only makes the area more beautiful, but it also helps cut the fire danger in this area by removing tinder-dry plants, while we allow our native species to flourish.”

“Part of my personal life mission is eradicating non-native blackberries,” PP&R Director Michael Abbaté tells East Portland News as he rips another plant out by the roots.

A surprise to some was finding out that PP&R Director Michael Abbaté was deep in brush above the trail working most of the morning.

At the event’s celebratory luncheon – one of four locations to host lunch for volunteers citywide – Abbaté spoke briefly to the group.

Volunteers are treated to a celebration featuring enormous sub sandwiches, snacks, and beverages.

“But there is something incredibly satisfying about digging out stumps,” Abbaté began. “We dug out some holly stumps up there, on the ridge, that have withstood many attempts to dig them out. There’s something really satisfying about it.”

The Parks Director also thanked volunteers for coming out to the event. “Donating your time and effort creates an ethic of stewardship that is so important to the Parks Bureau. In a year, we are given a half-million hours of volunteer time. That means there is more funding to help support programs.”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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