Volunteers wade in, during annual Johnson Creek Clean-Up

INCLUDES TRASH-PICKING VIDEO | These eager volunteers, back in full force, pulled tons of debris out of outer East Portland areas of Johnson Creek again this year. Take a look …

In the Lents neighborhood, volunteers find plenty of rubbish to pull out of the iconic stream, in this year’s Johnson Creek Watershed Council Annual Creek Clean-up.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After being hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic for two years, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) Annual Creek Clean-up event was again a splashing success on Saturday morning, August 20.

“Splashing” – partly because only for a brief period in late summer are volunteers permitted to wade into the creek to remove the debris.

In the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, dragging a steel street sign post out of Johnson Creek near the S. E. 82nd Avenue of Roses viaduct, we found JCWC Crew Leader Michael Smith.

In outer East Portland, volunteers worked their way upstream, the SE 82nd Avenue of Roses Johnson Creek overpass – one group pulling out rubbish up to Lambert Street.

But the greatest concentration of volunteers in our area was divided into two groups; both of them starting from SE 92nd Avenue near Flavel Street.

Watch volunteers, some hip deep in the creek, cleaning out rubbish

One group worked their way downstream from that location to SE Lambert Street.

The other band of volunteers had plenty of trash to pull out of the creek in the short distance between the 92nd Avenue Viaduct and the TriMet MAX Light Rail bridge, a few yards east.

In outer East Portland, JCWC Executive Director Daniel Newberry cuts his way through a blackberry thicket, clearing the way to haul trash gathered by volunteers working in the creek.

“This year’s event went very smoothly,” reported JCWC Executive Director Daniel Newberry after the event.

“The past two years have been quite a journey, in that we’ve had to make several pandemic-level adjustments,” Newberry explained.  “In 2020, because many public agencies weren’t allowing volunteers onto their properties, we did a land-based cleanup, so people could practice ‘social distancing’.

With just some of the trash ready to be picked up along SE 92nd Avenue is volunteer Melanie Throckmorton, who says, “I’m a citizen scientist and volunteer”.

“In 2021, we were back in the stream, but with required masking, and we did not gather beforehand as a big group,” Newberry recalled. “And, last year we also didn’t have a barbeque. Instead we ordered burritos for everyone at their individual locations.”

This year’s 160 volunteers removed approximately six tons of garbage from Johnson Creek that day.  “This was slightly below last year, but it’s more than our long-term average of 5.5 tons,” reflected Newberry. “Pre-COVID, we were attracting more like 200 to 250 volunteers at this annual event, so overall, this really was a success this year.”

Heading downstream, another group of volunteers finds plenty of rubbish to collect and remove, helping to improve the health of this waterway.

Carting away trash and garbage is Portland Parks & Recreation Stewardship Coordinator for Johnson Creek Watershed Susan Hawes.

Asked about their most unusual find in 2022, Newberry responded, “This year we pulled six commercial electric scooters from one location; we’ve never seen that before! Otherwise, it was mostly the same stuff: Mattresses, tires, clothing, toys, tents.”

Even though most of the volunteers were dirty, muddy, and soggy, by about noon they headed to Mill Park in the City of Milwaukie for food, the sharing of stories, and making new friends.

Learn more about the Johnson Creek Watershed Council by visiting their website:  CLICK HERE.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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