Johnson Creek volunteers go ‘Back in Action’

Here’s where, how, and why a handful of Johnson Creek Watershed Council volunteers ventured out in late July …

For the first time since the COVID-19 “shut-down of events”, volunteers return to work on the boundary between outer East Portland and Gresham – at a creek restoration event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On Saturday morning, July 25, hearty volunteers headed out in cool, but quickly-warming temperatures, for what the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) called a “Back in Action: Small Restoration Event” along Mitchell Creek.

Fewer than two dozen volunteers made the hike into the location, south of the Pleasant Valley Grange, right on the boundary between Portland and Gresham.

All of the volunteers are keeping in mind CDC and State-mandated guidelines, today,” says JCWC Community Outreach Coordinator Tiffany Mancillas.

“Our last public, in-person volunteer activity was our Watershed Wide Event, held on March 7; that’s one of our largest efforts of the year, where volunteers plant thousands of plants at 10 restoration work sites,” JCWC Community Outreach Coordinator Tiffany Mancillas told East Portland News.

Mancillas said the “Back in Action” name acknowledged their first in-person event since the COVID-19 coronavirus closure – and was chosen to encourage a few volunteers to come help at a site that needed attention.

More planning went into this activity than would be typical in the past, she remarked – especially inasmuch as governmental event restrictions continued shifting during the planning process.

Smiling behind her mask, as she clears away weeds from a plant she’s  about to mulch, is volunteer is Emily Lane.

“Our staff made sure to follow stricter guidelines than both the CDC and local governmental require for event attendance,” Mancillas pointed out. “In addition to capping it at 25 people total – including staff – we required face coverings, offered a hand-washing station and hand sanitizer, and also maintained social distancing during the entire event.

“Additionally we created an online sign-in waiver process and health check, to increase social distancing – and also to make sure people with symptoms did not attend.”

The day’s work area, called the “Centennial Property”, isn’t directly on Johnson Creek, Mancillas acknowledged.

Volunteers help new plantings, installed in March along Mitchell Creek, survive during the hot summer months.

“This property has a key fish passage element, Mitchell Creek, running through it,” she explained. “Mitchell Creek is a smaller tributary to Kelley Creek, a tributary of Johnson Creek; so, if we don’t improve habitat throughout the tributaries that lead to Johnson Creek, we cannot create a suitable habitat for salmon.

“If salmon die in the tributaries, they will never make it to Johnson Creek and on to the ocean, to successfully spawn.”

In the past, volunteers have removed a fish passage barrier at the Centennial site to allow safe and viable passage for what they call  “keystone species”, including salmon.

Bring in buckets of mulch is volunteer Dakota Tangred.

At this late July work session, volunteers followed up by removing weeds and adding mulch around many of the 1,500 plants installed during the March Watershed Wide Event. “Doing both those things increases the likelihood of them surviving the summer,” Mancillas explained.

As for how volunteers responded to the outing, she remarked, “Many folks said ‘thanks’ for having an event, and mentioned being excited to be able to do hands-on work. Many of them have worked with us for a long time.”

Johnson Creek Clean-Up on August 22
Their next event, the annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up, returns on August 22, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. “Working in small groups” is the phrase best describing the COVID-19 edition of their Johnson Creek Watershed Council watershed wide event.

This year, volunteers will go directly to their work sites with a focus on small groups and social distancing. Volunteers will be picking up trash, remaining on the banks and trails, out of the water.

They may gather for lunch, of conditions allow, at noon. Be part of the group that, for the several years, have pulled more than 5 tons of garbage out of Johnson Creek. Pre-registration is REQUIRED to keep teams small: CLICK HERE to do so Sign up now!

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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