Johnson Creek gets a late summer cleaning

These volunteers find more than discarded candy wrappers! See what this intrepid crew pulled out of the creek in the Brookside area …

Mt. Hood Community College SEED Program students volunteer to pick out trash and debris from Johnson Creek, near Brookside Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Along six miles of Johnson Creek – from the confluence of Crystal Springs Creek, out to Brookside Park in the Lents neighborhood – dozens of volunteers showed up ready to get wet and dirty on the morning of August 23. They were there to clean debris out of the waterway.

“This is the first year that we’ve gone this far east in the cleanup,” reflected the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC)’s Team Captain Coordinator for the Johnson Creek Clean-up, Melanie McCandless.

Green Lents volunteer, and JCWC Team Captain Coordinator, Melanie McCandless smiles – now that the creek clean-up effort has extended into her own neighborhood.

“I’ve been doing this for eight years now, because I live nearby in the Lents neighborhood,” McCandless told East Portland News. “It started out as an AmeriCorps project. The next year, I discovered that the Overland Park initiative was doing it in their area. We then joined forces with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.”

In past years, the annual preening only went as far east as Interstate 205, McCandless said. “But, I was pleased that, because I’m also with Green Lents, we were able to recruit enough volunteers to bring the clean-up way out to the middle reaches of Johnson Creek.”

Putting muscle into the effort, as he heaves one of the many truck tires they found up onto the creek bank, is SEED Program participant José Giménez – he’s also JCWC intern.

JCWC volunteers choose late August for the annual cleanup because of the creek’s low water level at that time of year. “Because of the steep banks here at Brookside, we have to walk in the creek to do this,” explained McCandless.

“Most of the things that we pick up are going to be in the creek, not so much along the bank. Because of the low water and good weather, it really helps our efforts today; there’s a lot of trash in this area!”

Although they looked to be enjoying their volunteering, when SEED Program students were given free T-shirts that say “Get Dirty” – they had no idea just how dirty they’d end up getting.

Most of the volunteers, clad in brand new T-shirts emblazoned with “Get Dirty”, were international students in the Mt. Hood Community College Sustainability Education & Economic Development (SEED) program.

They worked diligently along the creekbed in outer East Portland, pulling out vehicle tires, car parts, appliances, and trash of all kinds and descriptions.

New this year, McCandless pointed out, is that they were sorting out recyclables – like deposit-return bottles and cans – from trash, in an effort to make this year’s clean-up even “greener”.

Gresham High School senior Denise Lopez, a summer intern with JCWC through Saturday Academy, gets another trash bag to fill during the cleanup.

With a lot of hard work, it didn’t take long for the creek bank to be lined with bags of refuse, ready to be picked up. Along the lower and middle reaches of the creek, volunteers removed about three tons of trash.

When you notice how clean Johnson Creek is, next time you visit, consider helping out the JCWC at their next creek cleanup.

Learn more about the mission and efforts of the JCWC by visiting their website: CLICK HERE to open it.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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