Johnson Creek ‘Watershed Wide Event’ continues in pandemic

Here’s what folks were doing in outer East Portland, primarily in the Lents neighborhood, during this year’s Johnson Creek Watershed Council cleanup …

Careful to social-distance themselves from one another, volunteers at the 2021 Johnson Creek Watershed Council Watershed Wide Event install plants in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For nearly five decades, local residents have gathered to help restore, repair, and clean up Johnson Creek, in cooperation with the nonprofit Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC).

On Saturday, March 13, scores of volunteers headed out to participate in the annual “Watershed Wide Event” – spending a Saturday morning working with others, socially-distanced, of course.

Friends Ali Briggs-Ungerer and Cassie Ryan-Mapolski say they like helping to improve the watershed by volunteering at the annual cleanup.

“Neither tough weather conditions nor COVID have been able to stop 23 consecutive years of the JCWC’s ‘Watershed Wide Event’ held this time every year,” beamed the organization’s Executive Director, Daniel Newberry.

“Our volunteers love this opportunity each March to plant native trees and shrubs and remove invasive species, all with the goal of improving the streamside habitat of Johnson Creek and its tributaries,” Newberry told East Portland News. “The trees we plant will, one day, provide shade to help keep the streams cool enough for salmon.”

This trio were too far away for us to get their names, but these Watershed Wide Event volunteers were happy to smile for the camera.

This year’s cleanup party was a bit different, due to COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions – with a cap of only 10 people at each site, with face coverings being required at all times, and with there not being any large group festivities at the kickoff or conclusion.

“Instead of holding a large post-event lunch, for example, this year, we had burritos made and delivered by Tortilleria y Tienda de León and Fernando’s Alegria from the Portland Mercado,” Newberry pointed out. “And, each site also featured hand-washing stations, which is a change we may continue with indefinitely.”

They’re happy to be volunteering outdoors on a sunny day, say JCWC volunteers Max Norman and Hunter Storm.

This year, about 175 people turned out at 11 sites, from Milwaukie to Damascus, and added 4,500 new plants to the watershed Newberry reported. “About 40% of the people and plants were at our four Southeast Portland locations; which is less than half the number of volunteers in a typical year.”

Further east in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area, volunteers Ali Smith and Shana Langer were digging and planting.

In outer East Portland, two groups of volunteers worked in different locations in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area. One first group headed in from SE Foster Road near 104th Avenue; with the other, further east, busy at the western end of SE Cooper Street at 108th Avenue.

Both groups were equipped with hundreds of native plants, shrubs, and trees to put into the ground, and they asted no time in doing it.

JCWC Board Member Svetlana Hedin spends a moment with longtime natural area preservationist Ed Kerns.

Helping JCWC Board Member Svetlana Hedin was long-time Springwater Corridor Trail improvement booster Ed Kerns, who received the Sandy Diedrich Award at the 2010 Sprit of Portland Awards from then-Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Newberry asked us to acknowledge their partners in the cleanup – which we’re happy to do:

The Mintkeski Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Clackamas County’s Water Environment Services, Portland General Electric, East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, Portland Parks & Recreation, City of Gresham, Friends of Tideman Johnson, Leach Garden Friends, Friends of Trees, Americold, and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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