There’s no question whether or not this creek, which runs from Gresham to the Willamette River, floods. But find out why some outer SE Portland residents are concerned about the city’s plans …

Dale Guldenzopf shows the group, gathered at an empty lot owned by the City of Portland in Lents, a floodplain map from the 1940s. “I live next door. I have to pay for flood insurance, but I’m not even in the floodplain,” Guldenzopf says.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The group that gathers in an empty lot owned by the City of Portland in Lents on SE 108th Avenue keeps growing, as a meeting called by the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) gets underway on August 23.

The meeting’s topic: The East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project.

BES Johnson Creek project manager Maggie Skenderian points out the location of the property on which this meeting is taking place in Lents.

“This project will reduce flood damage in Lents,” says the Johnson Creek project manager from BES, Maggie Skenderian, setting the stage for the meeting. “This project will add flood storage and habitat on BES property south of Foster Road, from 106th Avenue east to 110th Drive.”

Along these blocks, we learn, 75% of the property has been bought by the City of Portland. “We’ve received a $2.7 Million FEMA grant for this project; the City matching the grant with a $900,000 budget. The project is in the design phase, and construction is scheduled for summer of 2009.”

Flooding every ten years
As she starts the meeting, Skenderian says that Johnson Creek has major floods every ten years, and minor floods every other year.

“When we have a big event, the creek flows over the banks,” explains Skenderian. “The water doesn’t have places to go. We’re in the process if trying to identify what our potential opportunities and concerns are here, from the people who live in the immediate area.”

Civil engineer Eirik Schultz talks about options available to alleviate flooding events.

Stepping up to the maps, Eirik Schultz and Vigil Agrimis, say they come from a firm of civil engineers, landscape architects specializing in rivers, streams and wetlands.

“The Johnson Creek channel has moved over time,” Schultz begins. “At one time, it was over here,” he says, pointing to a map. “But, it might have been over here. We study its hydrology [from the Greek, “water knowledge”]; it migrates and adjusts itself, as it moves water and sediment.”

“Other streams,” Schultz goes on, “may feature a three to four foot wide channel at ordinary high water. During a yearly ‘channel-forming event’, it might widen to 20 feet. Its floodplain would be between 80 to 100 feet wide.

“However, Johnson Creek is a 30-foot wide channel with 12-14 foot vertical sides.

“It doesn’t access its floodplain until a ten year event,” explains Schultz. “When it does overflow its banks, the flooding is going to be very broad.”

Proposes flooding cures and obstacles
“When we connect a stream to the floodplain, it has somewhere to go when it overflows,” says the hydrologist. “We’ll attempt to lower the water surface elevation. At a 10-year event, you’ll see less flooding onto Foster Road. It will not stop flooding on the system, but there is nothing we could do to alleviate flooding from a major event.”

One way to deal with flooding is “storage” – but a dam is impractical on Johnson Creek.

“Another way to deal with it is ‘conveyance’. That is, moving water though the system more quickly. What we’re trying to do is find a balance of the two. We model solutions by considering what happens if we put in a channel here, or widen a channel there.”

But the main constraint on the design, Schultz concludes, is having to design the project around existing bridges, sewer lines, and property owners.

Joyce Beedle, who says she’s lived near the creek since 1984, raises concerns brought forward by neighbors.

Property owners’ concerns voiced
“We have several concerns about the project,” pipes up Joyce Beedle, a 20-year resident, and spokesperson for the Lents-area neighbors affected by the project.

“The ‘we’ I’m referring to are the families who live on 106th 108th and 110th. We’ve gotten together three times now, in the past couple of weeks,” Beedle states, holding a sheaf of notes. “We came up with what we call crucial facts, concerns during construction, after completion, and ‘loose ends’ questions.”

Her list of “critical items” include:
1. “That, in this [BES/FEMA program], there be no means of forcing the current residents out. There is no provision for condemnation.”

Almost a third of the people in the affected area, Beedle estimates, are second or third-generation residents, who plan to pass their property to their next generation.

“There are a fair number of us who have lived here for 20 years or more. The shortest duration is a resident who has been here for eight years,” she adds.

2. “This plan should include maximizing the use of Brookside [a nearby site already completed] as a ‘preamble’ to the work done further west at this new site.”

The reason stated is that this nearby existing site, upstream on Johnson Creek, has been improved for a long enough time that experts should “know what it does, what does not do, and what it could do better.”

3. “This project makes the area a better place to live, instead of degrading this portion of the neighborhood.”

Describing the Brookside project as looking “delightful”, Beedle says that neighbors don’t want the city to construct an ill-planned, “accidental floodplain restoration project”.

4. “Keep in mind that properties on SE 106th Avenue are on septic systems; not city sewer.”

The concern is that, whatever water is traveling through or being stored on BES property in a high water event, will be contaminated by the septic systems. High water may back up septic systems into homes.

5.  “The gravel base on the [unpaved] roads will be destroyed by heavy truck traffic.”

To this, Skenderian states the City of Portland will not be paving the three gravel roads during or after construction.

6.  “We will be holding the City of Portland, represented by BES, as accountable for hiring and responsibly supervising the contractors.”

The concern, Beedle relates, is that contractors won’t be mindful of property owned by neighbors during the construction project.

When Skenderian asks if there are other concerns, longtime area resident Ernie Francisco states she’s concerned that trees will be removed from city property during the project.

“The BES and the City must obtain permits to remove trees, just like any landowner,” Skenderian responds.

This illustration shows areas affected by the City’s proposed project.

Resident questions floodplain maps
Clipping up a map of the Lents Johnson Creek Floodplain from the 1940s, homeowner Dale Guldenzopf proclaims, “The family has been living here since 1929. I’ve been coming to this house for 57 years. This house never flooded. The site flooded, but not the house.”

The site to which Guldenzopf refers is one lot north of the city-owned land at which the meeting is taking place. “I live next door. I have to pay for flood insurance, but I’m not even in the floodplain,” Guldenzopf says.

When he steps to the back of the meeting, we ask Guldenzopf what he thinks of the project, based on what he’s seen.

“If they administer it just right, it will be fine,” he replies. “But I’m a little concerned that they might buy up some of the property and develop it. This is valuable land.”

For more information, or to be put on a meeting notification list, neighbors are being asked to contact Marie Johnson at BES by calling (503) 823-6199, or e-mailing

We’ll keep you up to date as this story – and project – continues to develop.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Don’t ignore the flashing yellow lights – or school speed zone signs – now that school is back in session. See what happens to scofflaws in too big a hurry, right here …

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderson here tracks the speed of vehicles passing by Menlo Park Elementary School using a LIDAR gun.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the next couple of weeks – now that school’s back in session – cops are out to catch and ticket drivers speeding through school zones.

It’s not that they’re mean spirited – instead, they’re trying to save kids’ lives.

“The flashing yellow lights mean ‘drop your speed to 20 mph and keep an eye out for the little ones going to school’,” says Sgt. Dan Liu, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct School Police Supervisor.

We’re talking with Liu in front of Menlo Park Elementary School on September 4. As we speak, most cars are slowing down for the school zone. “Going 20 mph gives drivers a lot more reaction time,” Liu explains. “And, the children may simply not be looking. They’re excited about going to school, and, not paying attention.”

However, other drivers seem oblivious to the flashing yellow “school zone” lights – and even seem to overlook the half-dozen police cruisers stopping speeders along NE Glisan Street.

We walk over and stand next to Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderso, as he takes speed readings off his LIDAR gun. A medical transport van zips past at 38 mph; Gunderson radios ahead to a patrol car that stops the van. “I think this one will be cited, not warned,” Gunderson comments.

Officer Charles Lovell writes up a citation; and it isn’t for good driving. “We’ve got to slow drivers down around schools.” He says.

We go into the school to say hello to Brooke O’Neill, Menlo Park’s Principal. We ask her if she feels this special speed enforcement mission is important.

“All summer long, traffic goes 40 mph, or faster, along NE Glisan Street,” says O’Neill. “We need drivers to get back into the routine of going slowly when they pass the school, any time during the day. We want our kids to be safe, and we appreciate drivers slowing down – and watching out – for our children.”

Fines for speeding in a school zone could be as high as $206.00, for as little as eleven miles over the posted speed.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn why a “welfare check” on a family quickly turned into a crime scene investigation on NE Glisan Street, in this sad story …

Although police officers and paramedics tried to resuscitate the family members that the Multnomah County Coroner says was poisoned by carbon monoxide, the mother, father and child could not be saved.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The stillness of the night was shattered at 11:23 p.m. in the 10900 block of NE Glisan Street on September 6, as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances converged on a modest house.

“All of a sudden, the street was filled with cops,” Gloria Yalsen tells us as we arrive on scene. “We came out and heard a bang – not like a gun going off. Just a loud ‘thud’ kind of sound. Next thing, I see a cop doing CPR on a guy. I don’t think it worked; the guy is there, under the yellow cover.”

We interview everyone in the area; everyone with whom we speak says they don’t know right then why there is such a high level of public safety provider response.

Tragic event called a Homicide/Suicide
At 5:38 a.m., police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz tells us he can now release information about the event.

“An occupant of the house sent an e-mail message to a friend in Southern California,” Schmautz begins. “The message informs them of the suicide/homicide.”

When police officers arrive, they find a hose hooked to the exhaust pipe of a hearse, still running, in the home’s driveway.

Officers see the hose is attached to the home’s furnace ductwork. They disconnect the hose and forced entry to the home. The sound heard by the neighbors was, in all likelihood, caused by the forced entry.

“In the home, officers located three incapacitated individuals: 39-year-old John Kuca, 39-year-old Luray Hodder-Kuca, and 5-year-old Ruby Kuca, in a bedroom,” reports Schmautz. “Officers carried all three outside and performed CPR.”

Risking their own safety, officers rush into the home, trying to rescue the occupants. None of the family members survived, police officials say.

We’ve learned, but police will not confirm, that the father and daughter were pronounced dead at the scene. The mother reportedly died on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.

“Detectives confirm that a suicide note was left at the scene,” states Schmautz. However, the spokesman would neither confirm nor deny whether or not their actions were prompted by an illness in their family not covered by health insurance, as some have speculated.

One officer was transported to the hospital after being overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to rescue the occupants of the house.  He was treated and released.

“The officer is doing OK,” Schmautz says.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn why Mayor Potter trekked to Parkrose, and Governor Kulongoski read a book to second-graders in Woodstock – both on the same morning this week. Check out this exclusive back-to-school story and photos …

Welcoming the mayor to Parkrose Middle School are Melissa Whitcomb, President of the Parkrose High and Middle School PTA; Ana Gonzalez, new Parkrose Middle principal; Student representative Jessica Luckenbaugh; the honoree, Portland Mayor Tom Potter; Marquese Hayes, student ambassador; and Molly Davies, Assistant Principal, Parkrose Middle School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though it isn’t an election year, and no funding measures are up for a vote, both the city’s and state’s chief executives paid visits to schools in East Portland – just as school started for the day on September 6.

Potter visits Parkrose

Bright and early, Mayor Tom Potter waves hello as we both pull into the parking lot at Parkrose Middle School at 9:00 a.m.

Whisked inside the office of Principal Ana Gonzalez, Potter meets with district board members and school representatives, including Superintendent Dr. Karen Gray.

Mayor Tom Potter is interviewed by a Parkrose High School student reporter – freshman Evan Huynh.

The first reporter to interview Potter is Evan Huynh, a freshman from Parkrose High School.

“I want to make sure our young people get the best education we can give them,” Potter tells Huynh. “This is my third school visit this week. I come out to let the schools know we’re supporting them. And, we’re also seeing how the school is doing, and looking for ways we can help.”

The Mayor added that his visits also bring the media out. “It’s good to have the public’s attention directed to the good things at your school.”

In his personable style, Potter then turns the tables and interviews the young reporter, asking, “You just graduated from this school – what could be improved?”

Huynh thinks for a moment, and says, “Adding a few more programs would be better. Many [school] programs are dedicated to drama and art, which are great. But a program for architecture or construction trades would be a good addition.”

For some reason, news reporters asked the mayor only about his new beard – not about his reasons for visiting schools during their first week in session.

Mayor quizzed about … his beard
Next in line was a reporter from radio KPAM/860. Surprisingly, he only questioned Potter about his newly-grown, but neatly-trimmed, facial hair.

Asked about the feedback he’s received about his beard, Potter says, “So far, the vote has been four people in favor, zero against. Because it is so new, it surprises me to see it when I look in the mirror. My wife likes it. In the polling [on my website at] people can say if I should keep it or shave it off.”

Then the reporter asks if his new whiskers mean he’ll run for office again; Potter replies good naturedly, “The facial hair isn’t like a reading of tea leaves indicating whether or not I’ll be running again [for Mayor]. The only thing the facial hair says is that I was on vacation for two weeks, and it was easier not to shave.”

Says visit supports Parkrose Education
When we take our turn, we choose to ask Potter why he is visiting schools.

“Thank you, David, I appreciate the question,” Potter says with a grin.

“Young people are my first priority. As Mayor, I want to make sure they have the opportunity to get the best education possible.

“In Parkrose, the district has worked hard to overcome financial and facility shortages. They’re doing a good job. I want to make sure the voters understand what is at stake. That is, the children are the future of our community.”

The school’s principal and student representatives share their concerns about the upcoming school year with Mayor Potter.

The Mayor and school entourage set off for a tour of the school. He’s guided by student ambassadors Marquese Hayes and Jessica Luckenbaugh.

“I’m really excited to start school,” says Luckenbaugh, entering as an eighth-grade student. “I like to learn here. I thought it is pretty cool the Mayor came to visit. I was really excited when I learned I would get to take him around to show the Mayor our school today.”

Eighth-grader Jessica Luckenbaugh and student ambassador Marquese Hayes give Portland Mayor Tom Potter a tour of the school. Neither student indicated any interest in the Mayor’s new growth of facial hair.

After the mayor completed his tour, Ana Gonzalez — starting her third day as principal of Parkrose Middle School, comments, “We really enjoyed his visit today. We appreciate the interest he shows in our school, its students, and his desire to see that our students do well as they go on into high school.”

Governor Ted Kulongoski visits Woodstock elementary school

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School principal Tim Lauer talks with Governor Ted Kulongoski on their way to visit a classroom.

Learning that Governor Ted Kulongoski was scheduled to visit Meriwether Lewis Elementary School at 10 a.m., we travel to the Woodstock neighborhood.

As the first to greet him, we ask Kulongoski why he is visiting this grade school.

Says school visits make job worthwhile
“It is the beginning of school. It’s always important, I think, that kids see this as a great time,” the governor tells us as we stride toward the school’s entrance.

“I’m always out here trying to promote education. This is where it all starts; these kids at this age. I saw them standing there [in the schoolyard] as I went by, waving. I thought it was great. I like it. It makes the job all worthwhile.”

Inside the school, Kulongoski is greeted by principal Tim Lauer, interim Portland Public Schools Superintendent Ed Schmidt, and Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei.

Walking in the hallway, Kulongoski asks Lauer to describe the demographics of the school’s neighborhood, and whether or not special education is available.

They turn into the Debra Swan’s second-grade classroom. The children are active and talkative until their teacher utters the “magic word” – Rumpelstiltskin. They fall silent.

Press conference with second-graders

Governor Ted Kulongoski holds a press conference with students of Debra Swan’s second grade class at Lewis Elementary.

After he takes off his jacket, and sits down with the youngsters, Governor Kulongoski talks with the class.

“Working for kids, I think it is one of the most important things I do,” the Governor begins. “I’m trying to help you in school here, so you can learn to do anything you want to do. Oregon needs you guys. That’s why I come here to talk to you: To tell you how important it is to be in school.”

“Are you happy you are the Governor of Oregon?” asks a second-grade girl sitting in the front row.

“I am more than happy,” Oregon’s governor replies. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I love being the Governor of Oregon. There are days when it isn’t the best job. But I always like it. It is always fun.”

“Do you have any pets at your house?” asks a boy.

“Yes I do,” Kulongoski replies. “I have the ‘first dog’, named Hershey. She thinks she’s top dog – but I’m the top dog.”

Students supply governing suggestions

Hanna and Makalia show Kulongoski sentiments starting with “If I was Governor of Oregon …” shared by other Lewis Elementary School posted outside their classroom.

After reading a brief story to the class, Kulongoski is escorted to a wall outside the classroom, adorned with printed sentiments starting with “If I were Governor of Oregon …”

Kulongoski reads aloud, “If I were Governor of Oregon, no one would drink alcohol.” He pauses, smiles and remarks, “Oh, that’s an interesting one. Ah, I don’t know – actually, ah, that is a wonderful statement. Is there a temperance movement here at the school?”

The Governor says he agrees with a posted note stating, “If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure no child played with guns.”

“If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure no sharks would ever eat anybody.” Kulongoski remarks, “That shows quite an imagination.”

Kulongoski reads a several more, including “If I were Governor of Oregon, I’d keep people safe by not letting them speed through [red] lights”, and “If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure that all the schools were really good.”

Principal Tim Lauer, Governor Ted Kulongoski, interim superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Ed Schmidt and Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei strike a pose in front of the student-made welcome banner.

Says he’s pleased with recent legislation
Asked how state-level politics influence local education, Kulongoski responds, “For teachers, I think there is an attitudinal difference in their belief that the state legislature and governor actually understands the importance of education in children’s lives.”

“I think as much as it is tangible, there is the intangible aspect of this saying ‘this is important to us’, and we have to provide the resources for it. I think it was a good session in the legislature for education. I think you’ll see it play out in the attitudes of the school’s professional staff,” explained Kulongoski.

After the Governor left the school, Lewis principal Tim Lauer says he thinks it is an honor to be visited by the state’s highest ranking executive. “Kulongoski demonstrated a real interest in our school and students. We’re all happy he chose to come visit our school here in Woodstock.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

When you learn how a homeowner got stung with a bogus $20 bill, you’ll see why you’re better off to insist they take a cheap item for free – or leave your property immediately …

This bill looks OK until you take a much closer look at it!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The garage sale for the new Sellwood residents was a pleasant affair, although not a big money-maker, for the Smith* family on September 1.

“Overall, we had a nice day,” says Mary Smith*. “Friendly neighbors came to look, and a few people stopped look at the stuff we’re trying to get rid of.”

But, about 1 pm, as they were winding down their sale, a man who they thought would be their final customer of the day walked up.

“This scruffy looking guy doesn’t browse around,” Smith says. “He immediately picks up a door knob, priced at 25-cents.”

When the man asks if she can break a $20 bill, Smith tells the shopper to just take it.

“He was brisk and gruff,” Smith tells us, “and insisted on paying for the door knob with this $20 bill.” And, of course, he got change.

Here’s the back side of the fake $20 bill.

The man walked away quickly, down the sidewalk and hopped into an older “funky blue” Suzuki Samurai being driven a female. They sped away.

Because the man looked and acted so differently from everyone else who stopped at the garage sale, Smith says, she took closer look at the bill she was handed. “It doesn’t feel like money, and looking closely, you can see it is fake.”

Although her husband hopped in his car and tried to find the vehicle, scam artists apparently sped away from the neighborhood, $19.75 in change and a used door knob richer.

Tell-tale signs
Looking back on the brief transaction, Smith says it’s now clear how this scam works.

A car and get-away driver park up the street a couple of houses from a garage sale. The other person gets out, selects an inexpensive item, insists on paying for it, and passes a bogus bill.

“I don’t want other people to be taken in by these people – or others like them,” Smith says.

Look closely and you can see the “crop marks” to help the counterfeiters cut the bills to size after they’ve been printed.

Portrait of a crook
Smith describes the man as being a 5’8″ tall Caucasian with a dark tan, like he spent a lot of time outdoors. He has blue eyes and dark brown hair – short cut, but under a deep blue ballcap. At that time he was unshaven, with a day or two growth of beard. He was wearing jeans, a colored T-shirt and boots, perhaps work boots. His complexion was fairly clear, and appeared to have teeth (unlike meth addicts).

They made their escape in old, smaller open-topped jeep-like vehicle; possible a blue Suzuki Samurai. Because it was parked down the block, they didn’t get the license plate.

Don’t get burned by a bogus bill
“It wasn’t that great of a loss,” relates Smith. “When you look at the bill, it’s passable. But we still feel a bit taken and foolish. We don’t want others to be taken in like we were by these criminals – or any others – who are doing this.”

Making and passing counterfeit money is a federal crime. If you are victimized, call the Portland Police immediately.

*We’ve changed the name of the family affected to protect their privacy.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read why the owner of this SE Portland railroad sees bright days ahead for rail transport – but a gloomy future for a transportation museum the City of Portland had promised to build 50 years ago …

Railroad historian and rail line owner, Dick Samuels, talks with his friend, retired engineer Jim Abney, before our “ride into history”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A few weeks ago, many people took note of the historic locomotives and rail cars running along the Oaks Bottom tracks.

According to railroad history buff Dick Samuels, these excursions were run for Lionel model train convention held in Portland, and a visiting group of “speeder” [a small, railroad four-person work car] enthusiasts.

Because it was built in 1952, rail buffs consider the Oregon Pacific Railroad Company’s 1202 “diesel electric” locomotive to be a relic. Bu, this fully-restored and rebuilt machine is its main engine to pull freight cars in and out of SE Portland every day.

“We also offered rides to the public to benefit the Pacific Railroad Preservation Assn., to publicize Portland’s trains, and remind people that we are here,” Samuels tells us at the association’s annual picnic held at Oaks Park. “To thank the volunteers, get to run the trains for themselves, today.”

Rail resurgence benefits inner SE Portland
The rails used in the demonstration rides between Oaks Park and East Portland Junction belongs to the Oregon Pacific Railroad Company – a real, working railroad company owned by Samuels. The “1202”, a diesel electric locomotive built in 1952, which powered some of the excursion rides, is the railroad’s “workday” engine.

“Inbound, we haul frozen food,” explains Samuels. “We handle about 90% of the frozen poultry that comes into Portland. We also carry coiled steel to a factory here. We ship out three to five carloads of frozen soup for institutions in the Midwest.”

Railroads are seeing a real resurgence, Samuels comments. “With fuel costs going up, and people more concerned about the environment, it makes sense. It isn’t the fastest form of freight transportation, but it is the most efficient.”

Samuels says his rail line, run with the help of his family members, keeps hundreds semi-trucks off SE Portland streets every month.

“As long as people keep eating, and needing goods, we’ll keep moving it by rail,” says Samuels with a smile.

Portland Transportation Museum 50 years overdue
While the future of his Milwaukie-based railroad looks bright, Samuels says he’s glum about the prospects for preserving the history of rail transportation in the Pacific Northwest.

“We’ve been looking at a home for Portland’s historic trolleys, railroad cars, and rail memorabilia south of Oaks Bottom. 50 years ago, Portland’s city leaders promised to build a transportation museum there. They haven’t kept their promise,”

Samuels points to the three cabooses and other older rail units on the tracks. “They need a place to live. We’ve been giving [Portland] the chance to fulfill this promise, at no cost to the public. We’re willing to do a straight trade – the right-of-way they need to complete the Springwater Trail, in exchange for access to site of the one-time Sellwood dump. We don’t even need to own the property; just the right to use it for its intended purpose.”

Changing the subject, Samuels asks if we’d like to ride in the 1202’s cab, while volunteer engineer Jim Abney (retired after 40 years of being full-time engineer) takes guests for a ride.

Jim Abney, a retired engineer, says he loves his volunteer engineer duties. “Go fishing? I’d rather drive a train any day.”

We readily agree, climb into the cab and step into living history. “You’re in good hands,” says Samuels with a smile, and hops off the train. The locomotive roars to life, and off, riding through history along Oaks Bottom, toward Portland.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover why this group was at a key site during the latest Johnson Creek Watershed-wide clean-up event …

Lisa Gunion-Rinker and Laurie Kendall volunteer to help clean up trash and clean out invasive plant species along Johnson Creek in inner SE Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the Friends of Tideman-Johnson Park, the Johnson Creek Watershed-wide clean-up project on August 18 isn’t a one-time event.

“We will be doing projects like this every month,” says co-chair Lisa Gunion-Rinker, as she takes a break from pulling ivy off a tree. “We’ll also be doing native plantings in the park.”

Considerable work has been done to improve Tideman-Johnson Park, including covering a once-exposed major sewer line, adding a boardwalk, and restoring natural habitat. “But, I’m surprised how many people haven’t visited it.”

Gunion-Rinker tells us their group was awarded a stewardship grant from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services as a part of the Greater Johnson Creek Watershed improvement program

Many volunteers pitch in
“For the area-wide event today,” says Gunion-Rinker, “We’ve partnered up with Portland Parks & Recreation, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and Precision Castparts. About 60 people came to our site, and we’re getting a whole bunch of work done.”

Sixty volunteers from several organizations, including PCC Structural, pitched in to preen the land near the creek.

We see workers pulling ivy off trees, chopping down blackberry bushes, and removing other non-native species. Other volunteers gather and haul out trash.

“Our monthly projects will keep our park a better one for people to enjoy, and to see the natural area as it should be,” says Gunion-Rinker. “We hope others will join us – usually on the last Saturday of the month.”

Serving themselves some great barbecue, prepared by Clay’s Smokehouse, are volunteers Wes and Wiley Wolfe, at the JCWS’s “Jammin’ for Salmon” event that followed the watershed-wide cleanup.

Where to access the park
This park runs along the Springwater Corridor. From Eastmoreland, you’ll find the entrance just south of SE Crystal Springs Blvd. at the end of SE 38th Ave. On the south side of the creek, enter from Springwater Corridor access parking lot on SE 45th Ave just off Johnson Creek Blvd.

“This park is in the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association area, but we also have volunteers from Woodstock, Eastmoreland, and Sellwood today,” adds Gunion-Rinker.

Check to find the group’s activity dates. And, learn more about the Johnson Creek Watershed Council by visiting

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Along with crafts and games, see how these campers are helping to beautify this portion of the Springwater Trail …

members of the YMCA “Eastside Breakaways” day-camp – Ian Pradham and Andy Tucker, Eric Thompson, and Audrey Ferguson – pitch in at Beggars Tick.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Along with their other camp activities, kids who go to the YMCA “Eastside Breakaways” day-camp learn community service.

We catch up with them as they are spreading mulch and cleaning paths at Beggars Tick, on SE 111th Avenue, just north of SE Foster Road, along the Springwater Trail.

“Part of our job is to help these kids as develop human beings,” says camp counselor Andy Tucker. “And part of growing into being a good citizen is learning to participate in community service. It is also about learning what is going on at this wildlife refuge – the plant life and other stuff they’re doing here.”

As the sixth through eight grade students toil away, Metro Park ranger Don Bee looks on and comments, “We take care of a lot of parklands. Whenever we can get volunteers to help us, it really makes a difference. These kids are doing a great job.”

Here, wheeling in mulch is camper Eric Thompson.

The mulching, Bee says, helps control weed growth, and retains moisture for the native plants, helping them do better against the invasive species of grasses.

What do the kids think?

“I’m used to doing yard work like this,” says volunteer Eric Thompson. “We’re helping out here; you can see that we’re doing helps. It’s fun to be of service.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Next time you visit the area, check out the history – and new renovations – along Hawthorne Boulevard …

Linda Nettekoven, vice chair, Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Association; Jean Senechal Biggs, project manager, City of Portland; Karin Edwards, president, Hawthorne Blvd. Business Association; John Laursen, owner Press 22, and designer of the bronze plaques; and Portland Commissioner Sam Adams all take a peek at one of the monuments installed on Hawthorne Boulevard – one at the Multnomah County building, the other at SE 36th Street.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After almost a decade of planning, and a year of construction, the merchants along the street celebrated the completion of the Hawthorne Boulevard Project with proclamations and a street fair on August 18.

When we met at the unveiling their historical monument, Karin Edwards, president of the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association, told us why she’s pleased with the project’s outcome.

“Hawthorne is a very ‘green minded’ business community. Our customers prefer to bike, walk and bus when possible,” said Edwards. “And, everyone who drives to visit Hawthorne Boulevard parks their car – and becomes a pedestrian. So, pedestrian-oriented improvements really help the entire business and shopping community. We feel that increased safety is good for everyone, and it’s good for business.”

Edwards told us their association’s all-volunteer board helped guide the project. “Our goal was to maximize the positive benefits for customers and businesses. Our previous two presidents have provided excellent leadership.”

Lisa Naito and Sam Adams present their proclamations – one from the county, the other from the city – commending the improvements made to SE Hawthorne Blvd. and declaring August 18 as “Hawthorne Day”.

Two commissioners present proclamations
Both City of Portland Commissioner Sam Adams and Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito were on hand to celebrate the boulevard’s beatification project.

“This is a glorious day,” Adams told us, as he – and district leaders – took a sneak peek at the historical monument about to be dedicated. “Hawthorne Boulevard is one of our key neighborhood business districts. With this project, they got new sidewalks, safer street crossing areas, and new sewers. This helps make Hawthorne Boulevard a better place to live, work and play.”

Lisa Naito added, “The historical plaque is an artful addition to our County building. We’re very proud to be part of the Hawthorne Community.”

Hawthorne Boulevard historical medallion’s designer, John Laursen, talks about the project, while Commissioner Sam Adams shows off the handiwork.

Says medallions are opposite of graffiti
In addition to the historical monuments, artist John Laursen designed the medallions that are embedded in many of the sidewalk extensions.

“It was struggle at times, to make sure the funding would be there, and that the project would get built as designed by the citizen’s advisory committee,” Laursen told the group. “We had the idea of including aesthetic improvements, to give added value to government expenditures. These medallions are like the opposite of graffiti – by putting these in our sidewalks, it is our way of saying ‘we care about his place’.”

Officials from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association, and the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association together cut the ceremonial ribbon dedicating a “bicycle oasis”, built with funds provided by the production company which shot the motion picture “The Hunted” here, two years ago.

Hawthorne Day Street Fair
Enjoy our photo journal of the day-long event …

Entertaining kids during Hawthorne Days are members of Circus Cascadia, including Paul Battram – who shows Zoe how to balance on a ball, with a little help from dad Andrew Mottaz.

This Hawthorne retailer serves the community by grilling up free hot dogs – both meat and vegetarian varieties – for those passing by.

Street sales along the boulevard attracted hundreds of shoppers.

Music – from sidewalk duos, like these guys, the “Slim Pickin’s Duo”, to full bands – provided a merry soundtrack for the event.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how a softball game, parade, festival and a music concert all provide good family fun for folks in the outer East Portland neighborhood …

Celebrating their 12 year of providing lemonade at Lents Founder’s Day in Lents Park – and six decades of serving the community with quality flooring – is the Lansing Linoleum family and crew.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Platted as the Town of Lent in 1899, it was annexed into the city in 1912 – making it one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods.

Every August, area businesses and neighbors gather to celebrate Lents Founder’s Day. Here’s our photo album of the 2007 activities:

Annual softball game

The City of Portland City Stickers (left side) lead on the scoreboard from the first inning playing against the Lents Neighborhood Rebels. The City Stickers won the game, 24, to 9.

Parade and Festival

During the Founder’s Day Parade, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams greets people along the SE 92nd Avenue leg of the parade route.

In the Lents Lutheran Community tent, Jose Gomez and Erica Ferguson are slicing up lots of watermelon at Lents Founder’s Day.

Learning about old-time camp cooking skills are Kristine Keller and Kayden.

John and Judy Welch serve up some of the 300 free hot dogs, provided to the event by the New Copper Penny restaurant.

Rubi Gastelum climbs the Portland Parks & Recreation “rock wall” like a champ.

Larry Morrell leads the Providence Stage Band.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Smoke from the ‘controlled burn’ on Powell Butte could be seen all over outer East Portland. See amazing exclusive photos, from the air and ground, and learn why this was a “good” fire …

Ten of the 30+ acres burned on Powell Butte, as seen from the air, reduced burnable materials near homes surrounding the park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While usually firefighters put out fires, members of Portland Fire & Rescue, Gresham Fire Department, and other area agencies, were busy setting more than 30 acres of Powell Butte ablaze on August 25.

The three organizations involved with this incendiary exercise say it serves four purposes:

  • Reducing the possibility of uncontrolled wildfires,
  • Removing non-native plants,
  • Practicing wild land firefighting, and
  • Testing NET team communication systems.

Lt. Allen Oswalt, Portland Fire & Rescue, and Mart Hughes, PP&R Ecologist, keep an eye on the largest “burn area” of the day.

Wildfire abatement
In 2006, the city received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Oregon Emergency Management to reduce the potential for significant wildfires in several natural areas within Portland, according to Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) District 2 Battalion Chief Kevin Brosseau.

“We’re lighting smaller fires around the edges of five different sections, and letting them burn in until the fuel [weeds] is gone,” says Brosseau, the PF&R officer in charge of fighting wild land fires.

It may look like a wildfire, but this “prescribed burn” is carefully controlled by firefighters.

Improving Powell Butte’s ecology
“Another piece of this project,” says Mart Hughes, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) Parks Ecologist, “is that this an ecological management program for the Butte.”

This burn acts as a “natural process” for Powell Butte’s grassland, Hughes tells us – as we watch the fire from atop a ridge on the butte.

“This prescriptive fire will reduce flammable non-native vegetation, including Himalayan Blackberry and other invasive, non-native species,” continues Hughes. “This burn helps prepare the site for seeding with native grasses and perennials. These will, in time, result in a grassland with higher wildlife habitat values.”

Wildfire fighting personnel and equipment from Boring to West Portland were participants in the burn project. Inset: the portable pool keeps water on hand for the tender trucks.

Visible from Vancouver
From the air, our pilot, Brent Grabinger, notes two plumes of smoke, as we climb to altitude from Pearson Airport in Vancouver, WA.

As we approach the burn zone, we can see many types of wilderness firefighting equipment deployed. Next to the pump trucks are what look like giant backyard play-pools. Brosseau later tells us these are actually temporary water reservoirs.

Looking down, we see that that Powell Butte is ringed by neighborhoods, homes, and retail stores.

Tommy Schroeder, a firefighter specializing in fighting fires where countryside meets the city, rides a specially-equipped ATV, while tending the fire-line on Powell Butte.

“Burn to Learn” exercise
On the ground, our escort on Powell Butte is Lt. Allen Oswalt, Portland Fire & Rescue’s Public Information Officer.

“If a fire here got out of hand, with all the dry brush on the butte, it could do a lot of damage,” Oswalt comments, as we creep up a trail toward the main staging area, riding in a fire department four-wheel-drive rig.

Specialized “brush units” from all over the greater Portland area – this one, from Boring – practice their wilderness firefighting skills at the controlled burn.

“We have a lot of areas in outer East Portland that have urban/wilderness interface areas,” Oswalt explains. “Our main goal is to help PP&R with their ecological project, and reduce the fuels. But also, we get the opportunity to keep our people’s wildfire-fighting skills sharp. Fighting wilderness fires is different than fighting structure fires.”

Using a “drip torch”, a firefighter lights a dry grassy area on fire.

Along the edge of a field, a firefighter is walking through dry grasses, dribbling a flaming mixture of kerosene and gasoline from what looks like a watering can.

Saying they usually put fires out, Oswalt adds, “Usually people don’t think of fire doing good, but this fire will be doing the ecosystem up here a real favor.”

David Fischer and Jason Campbell get information about the burning program from the NET Coordinator, Patty Hicks.

Emergency team training
In the public parking area on the north side of Powell Butte we meet Centennial Neighborhood volunteer Patty Hicks.

“I’m a team leader for the Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) here,” Hicks says as she cautions visitors about the burn. “They didn’t close the park – but I am kind of surprised people want to walk and bike here today.”

For their NET team members, this burn helps them develop their skills working with people. “And, we’re practicing communicating among one another. Because of the topography and trees, we are relaying communications. Also, we’re discovering which communication devices work best.”

Neighborhood Emergency Teams, Hicks says, are neighborhood volunteers, who are trained to help their neighbors in time of emergency. “We do this because we love our community, and our neighbors.”

You can help restore the natural ecology of Powell Butte by volunteering to help replant the burned areas with native plant species.

Participate in replanting
“We’re going to be doing a lot of restoration planting, including Oregon oak,” PP&R’s Hughes says.

“We’ll have volunteer plantings. If people here in outer East Portland want to help their community with land stewardship, this is a great place to do it. And, you can’t beat the view while you’re working,” Hughes adds.

Check East Portland News Service – we’ll publish dates and times for the upcoming restoration projects.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

As this high school grows to 3,000 students, learn how the staff is gearing up to meet the challenge of the coming school year …

We usually photograph people – not objects – but the new 18-classroom building and landscaping is too attractive not to show you.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Next week, 3,000 central outer East Portland students will stream onto the David Douglas High School campus.

The first thing they’ll notice is that the entire main building – larger than two city blocks – has been painted. As kids approach the main entrance, they’ll stroll across a spacious, newly constructed concrete walkway.

And, looking south from the main entrance, instead of seeing the old tennis courts, they’ll catch a glimpse of the new, two-story classroom building.

What won’t be immediately obvious is how diligently the school’s 174 teachers have been preparing for the new school year.

Principal Randy Hutchinson says the new building’s computer lab is equipped to provide state-or-the-art learning experiences.

Building to meet growing student body
David Douglas High’s principal, Randy Hutchinson points out architectural features new building on the new building as we walk toward it.

“Give or take 100 students, we’ll be teaching 3,000 pupils this year,” Hutchinson says. “As more and more large apartment complexes are built here, our student population continues to grow. The 18 classrooms, computer lab and teacher workroom in our new building will help us meet the needs of our students.”

The building was completed on schedule, and on budget, comments Hutchinson as we walk in the building’s south entrance.

Ramping up their ‘literacy movement’
While their new building is an important addition to the campus, Hutchinson says “I’m really excited about our literacy movement within the school.

“We’ve put together a three-year plan addressing the most pressing issues that have come about due our student community’s changing demographics. Together, our staff has chosen literacy as our primary focus. Without being literate, you’ll go nowhere in life. If you can’t read, you can’t write and you can’t learn.”

According to Hutchinson, the school’s district office supports their enhanced literacy program, both philosophically and financially.

Teaching the teachers is David Douglas High math instructor, Bill Berry – a member of the school’s “literacy team”. He’ll be teaching half-time; he’s been recruited to participate in the district-wide math literacy effort.

Teachers attend classes
“We’re starting with a solid core of superb instructors,” the principal continues. “Right now, the staff is taking training.

“Every teacher, of every subject, in every grade level is becoming a ‘literacy coach’. This is a paradigm shift for us. We’re helping our staff learn new teaching techniques by adding expert staff members and bringing in guest speakers.”

Focus on vocabulary and note-taking
“We have a huge immigrant population at our school; they come from families speaking 46 different languages. Kids pick up on ‘street English’ quickly; they can converse with you. But tests show they don’t have mastery of the English language,” informs Hutchinson. “Improving student’s vocabulary is a primary focus.”

50% of the kids who go to college drop out in the first year, he continues, because they don’t have good note-taking skills. More than telling kids to “write it down”, new programs the school developing helps students learn to recognize and record important concepts — instead merely writing down phrases.

Bill Blevins, personal finance teacher, holds a wireless responder – it’s part of a system that provides teachers with instant feedback regarding students’ knowledge level.

Building in learning technology
Personal finance instructor, Bill Blevins, is setting up his classroom in the new building. He says he’s keen on the layout, lighting and equipment in the room.

One of the high-tech tools he’ll be using is the Classroom Response System, he says, as he shows us a wireless device that looks like a TV remote control.

“During class, I can put multiple-choice questions on the Infocus video projector. They click in their answer,” Blevins says as he demonstrates the system. “I can immediately see how the class is doing, both collectively and individually – and know whether we need to spend more time on the topic or continue.

When we ask how the students like this technology, Blevins says, “It makes classes more engaging for students. In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had kids actually ask for more quizzes like they do when I use this system.”

Social studies teachers Tracy Lind and Heather Murdock-Wogmon say they’re really enthusiastic about starting school in their new classrooms.

A gift to students and teachers
As we conclude our tour, we meet social studies teachers Heather Murdock-Wogmon and Tracy Lind in the stairwell.

“It’s like a dream come true,” exclaims Murdock-Wogmon. “Everything about my new classroom gives me a feeling like the possibilities for education are endless.”

Lind nods in agreement. “This building is a great gift to the students, teachers and the community.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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