Volunteers get wet in annual ‘Johnson Creek Clean-up’

See outer East Portland volunteers jump into Johnson Creek, as they pull out trash deposited there throughout the year …

In the Lents neighborhood, volunteers with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council carefully walk in the stream, picking up trash, near SE 92nd Avenue and Flavel Drive.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It was quite an achievement: Numerous volunteers associated with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) spent the morning of August 21 participating in the 2021 Johnson Creek Clean-up, and they cleaned up over seven miles of the waterway at 14 sites, pulling tons of trash and rubbish out of the water.

From Sellwood out to Gresham, volunteers checked in at the site they’d chosen, and awaited a briefing from their group’s “Team Leader” before getting started.

Briefing the volunteers for the 2021 Johnson Creek Clean-up event we found JCWC Executive Director Daniel Newberry.

At Errol Heights Park, JCWC Executive Director Daniel Newberry was waiting for the many volunteers to gather that morning.

“In 2020, our August cleanup was limited to on-land sites only, due to COVID-19 restrictions – because it’s difficult for people to socially distance when they need to work in close quarters, knee deep, in the stream,” Newberry recalled.

These volunteers, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, are ready to hike into Errol Heights Park to begin a morning of service.

“Even so, last year we collected about 2.2 tons of trash,” he added, as he started organizing the group.

After the day’s work was over, Newberry reported back to us. “This year, 213 volunteers showed up, for a hybrid in-water and in-park cleanup,” Newberry told East Portland News. “This year, volunteers scraped, tugged, pulled and removed 6.4 tons of debris from the creek; we haven’t had this much trash removed since 2012!”

In Lents, this volunteer pauses to smile, before pitching a plastic container up, to the top of the viaduct, for others to pick up.

“This means that a cumulative total of 65 tons refuse removed form the creek since we started this project in 2007,” Newberry remarked.

Another difference this year from the pre-pandemic days, Newberry observed, is that they’d hold a group barbeque at noon for volunteers. “We’ve adapted by having pre-wrapped food delivered to our hard-working volunteers at each of our cleanup sites instead.”

On the east side of the 92nd Avenue Viaduct, Rob Bekuhrs and Johanna Shreve give us “thumbs up” as they head back into Johnson Creek to pull out more trash.

New and different rubbish found
For a variety of reasons, the amount of trash in the environment, and in the Johnson Creek watershed, has increased in the past year. “This was pointed out by many people, who commented they were glad to be part of the solution,” Newberry said.

“While beautifying the creek is esthetically important, when a lot of the trash degrades and breaks down, it’s bad for the water quality,” Newberry pointed out.

“Especially the trash containing elements, such as copper and lead, can leach toxins into the water and destroy a salmon’s sense of smell, and thus prevent them from finding and returning to their native stream.”

Volunteers are surprised to see that a City of Portland Bureau of Transportation street sign and steel post had been pitched into the creek – and work to remove it.

As he requested, we’re happy to list the cleanup’s funders this year: Clackamas Water Environment Services, Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, Advantis Credit Union, and the Mintkeski Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.

“We’ve got a great community, and they really turned out this year,” commended Newberry.

The Johnson Creek Watershed Council is continuing to plan volunteer events. Find out more by visiting their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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