Look how five years of volunteer effort turned an
llegal dumpsite into a natural “pocket park” …
Working Wilkes Creek natural area is Cameron Packaham, an Eagle Scout from Troop 613, along with his dad, Kevin Kackham, and brother Kohler.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it started out, the lot at 3655 NE 154th Avenue, just south of NE Sandy Boulevard, was an illegal dump.
“The lot was covered with a giant blackberry thicket,” the neighborhood chair of Wilkes Community Group, Ross Monn, told us at the site, “And was full of all kinds of refuse.”
We recall photographing volunteers hauling out tires, appliances, and other discarded materials when the project began five years ago. “We’ve taken out invasive plant species, and planted native growth,” commented Monn.
A shy volunteer rolls another wheelbarrow of wood chips across the newly-completed bridge that crosses Wilkes Creek.
Monn related to us the brief history of the project.
“This space belongs to the Wilkes Community Group neighborhood association. We got an easement through the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, with help of Mindy Brooks, for the homeowners’ association. Then, we started lining up volunteers from SOLV to come in and start helping us with the work.
METRO grants aid efforts
The volunteers got financial help from METRO in the form of two “Nature of the Neighborhood” grants — $2,500, and later $8,500.
With these grants, the group was able to hire help for some of the more difficult or dangerous improvements. “For example, we were able to have the footbridge over Wilkes Creek professionally designed and built.”
SOLV representative Steve Kennett tells gathered celebrants he’s pleased with the result of the group effort to improve the Wilkes Creek area.
Says the effort brings pride
Before the brief dedication ceremony, we walked along the woodchip-lined, winding pathway through the trees, and talked with District 1 METRO Counselor, Rod Park.
“I see all the work done by the volunteers,” Park said, “and the pride they’re showing as they restore this area. You know this translates into a better future for Wilkes. Now that this former eyesore is being cared for, neighbors have pride in it and will keep an eye on it.”
As we crossed the newly-installed footbridge, Park recalled that the designing and building posed one of the greatest challenges.
“This project is part of what we’re trying to do at METRO; that is, ‘re-nature’ areas, bringing back a natural state to neighborhoods,” Park added.
Project called a great example
The METRO grants administrator for Nature in the Neighborhoods, Janelle Geddes, said Wilkes Creek was a community-leveraged project. “They’ve done an enormous amount of work. We estimate this project has received $21,000 worth of volunteer time donations.”
One reason why this little creek is important, Geddes told us, is that it flows directly into the Columbia Slough. “This project is truly in the spirit of our ‘Nature in the Neighborhoods’ program. This improves neighborhood livability, and at the same time, protects an important water resource.”
District 1 METRO Counselor Rod Park stands with Wilkes Community Group chair Ross Monn, as he commends the efforts of volunteers to clean up the Wilkes Creek site.
For a few minutes on the morning of September 22, volunteers from the Boy Scouts, SOLV, and the neighborhood took a break to celebrate their accomplishments. After brief remarks, within ten minutes, the volunteers were back at work.
“This is wonderful,” Monn commented. “Our neighbors get a cleaned-up natural area. And, we’re going to be doing an education program. School kids can come to see nature in the Neighborhood. This is a project of which we can be proud.”
© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service