Johnson Creek: Much more than just a ditch
- Rob Cullivan
- Gresham Outlook - News
Watershed focus of events starting Aug. 27
Jamie Stamberger, the city of Gresham's healthy streams program coordinator, knows Johnson Creek is not the first thing on most East County homeowners' minds.
However, 'there are plenty of reasons for people to care, even if they're not nature freaks,' she says with a chuckle.
So even if you don't like hugging trees and chasing butterflies, the cleaner the creek and its watershed, the better your property's value, she says.
For instance, she says, a healthy watershed has a slower rate of soil erosion, meaning landslides along the creek - which could literally undermine homes built near it - are less likely to happen.
Amy Lodholz, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, a local nonprofit group, adds 'a healthier Johnson Creek means a more beautiful, safer, more valuable and healthier neighborhood overall for East County residents.
'I think it's important for folks in Gresham and any urban environment to realize every part of a city is also part of a watershed,' Lodholz adds.
A watershed is the area of land where all precipitation drains to a common water body, such as a river or lake. Water runs downstream, so buttes and ranges often form the boundaries of watersheds.
Johnson Creek flows 26 miles from its headwaters near the Sandy River to its confluence with the Willamette River, passing through Gresham, Portland, Milwaukie and Happy Valley and its watershed lies in Clackamas and Multnomah counties.
For the second year in a row, the watershed council and its partners are holding a series of events called Johnson Creek Days throughout the two counties in order to raise awareness of the ecosystem's place in our lives.
'We hope folks in Gresham will join us to explore and celebrate Johnson Creek and to learn about the restoration work that has occurred in this watershed,' Lodholz says.
Here's what lies ahead.
Residential rain gardens
Rain gardens are a great way for homeowners to improve their landscaping, keep polluted runoff out of creeks like Johnson and provide habitat for birds, bees and butterflies, the council says.
On that note, the city of Gresham is offering a free rain garden workshop from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at Hollydale Elementary School, 505 S.W. Birdsdale Drive.
A rain garden tour and refreshments will be provided.
For a limited time, residents in parts of Gresham can obtain $200 rain garden grants. For you to be eligible, city staff must confirm the safety of your home's site.
The city's Healthy Streams Program is also offering free downspout disconnection through Tuesday Aug. 30, as well as free native trees and free natural gardening consultations by appointment.
For more information, visit GreshamOregon.gov/watershed.
About the watershed
Johnson Creek Watershed is 54 square miles in area.
Fifty-four percent of the watershed is residential, 33 percent is rural, 8 percent is commercial/industrial, and 5 percent is parks and open space.
Johnson Creek is polluted with E. coli bacteria and other toxins. It is not safe to drink from, nor play in, the creek.
Johnson Creek Clean Up
9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 27
Volunteers will meet at Mill Park, 6201 S.E. Overland St., Milwaukie, to remove litter and trash from Johnson Creek.
A barbecue will take place from noon to 2 p.m.
Rain Garden Bike Tour
Saturday, Sept. 10
Come along for a group bike ride in Gresham to view four rain gardens the city has constructed. The ride beginning at 9 a.m. in Main City Park, 219 S. Main Ave.
Riders will stop and discuss each garden's special features that help keep stormwater run-off out of Johnson Creek. Riders will return no later than noon.
Saturday, Sept. 10
Saturdays, Sept. 3, 10 and 17
Professional and amateur artists are invited to three 'Paint Outs.'
Bring your supplies, and consider entering your finished piece in the Johnson Creek Community Art show in October.
Art demonstrations will be given, and spectators are welcome to watch artists.
Paint Outs take place from 10 a.m. to noon on the following days and in these locations:
• Tideman Johnson Park, Portland, Saturday, Sept. 3
Park in the lot at Southeast 45th Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard. Meet at the boardwalk two blocks west (downstream).
• Powell Butte, 16160 S.E. Powell Blvd., Saturday, Sept. 10
• Brookside Wetland, Saturday, Sept. 17
Meet just south of Southeast Foster Road and 111th Avenue.
Johnson Creek Runs
Mondays, Sept. 12, 19 and 26
Join council members for a 4-mile run through the watershed.
Runners will meet at Pace Setters, 4203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., Portland, at 6 p.m. and meet at Mickey Finns Brewery, 4336 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., afterward.
Poker-Themed Bike Ride
Sunday, Sept. 18
Ride your bike to five locations, for a total of about 10 miles, anytime between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to collect Johnson Creek Watershed playing cards.
Turn your five cards in as your poker hand at the final location by 1 p.m. The best hand wins a Johnson Creek fan package. All participants receive council shopping bags.
If you want to ride with Lodholz and others, she leaves council headquarters, 1900 S.E. Milport Road, Milwaukie, at 9 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., sample fresh water mussels. All tools and necessary guidance will be provided.
Confluence Project Tour and Art Show
Friday, Oct. 7
Spring Creek Coffee House, 10600 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, will display art inspired by the Johnson Creek Watershed. A wine and cheese reception will take place from 4 to 8 p.m.
A portion of the proceeds from art sold will be donated to the council.
Tours of a salmon habitat enhancement project at the mouth of Johnson Creek and the Willamette River will take place across the street from Spring Creek. Robin Jenkinson, the council's restoration coordinator, will guide folks through the site where logjams have been constructed to create pools for salmon to lay eggs.
The Johnson Creek Watershed is comprised of several smaller watersheds or subwatersheds, which include Kelley Creek, Crystal Springs, Sunshine Creek, Butler Creek, Veterans Creek and Badger Creek.
Salmon runs in Johnson Creek helped feed Clackamas Indians, as well as the farmers and others who settled here later.
This is not the case today. These fish, once so vital a part of our region's ecosystem and economy, have dwindled to low levels. However, there's some good news - for example, Coho salmon were seen migrating to the upper reaches of Johnson Creek this year.
Although black-tailed deer and coyotes are the only large mammals that can still be found in the watershed, black bear, bobcat, cougar, wolf, fox and elk were once common. Other mammals also can be found, including beaver, river otter and raccoons.
Birds are the most abundant wildlife in the watershed and include songbirds, ducks, geese, herons, hawks, owls and an occasional eagle.
Salamanders, red-legged frogs and painted turtles also call the watershed home, and sturgeon utilize the mouth of Johnson Creek.
Watershed Action Plan
The Johnson Creek Watershed Council and its partners have developed a Watershed Action Plan to help identify and prioritize restoration and protection programs for Johnson Creek.
The plan can be viewed at jcwc.org. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click 'Action Plan.'
What you can do
The Johnson Creek Watershed Council offers tips to folks who want to help preserve the watershed.
• Plant native vegetation in your yard to provide shade, shelter and food for fish and animals and to prevent erosion. Native species do not require pesticides or fertilizers and are drought tolerant and disease resistant.
To find out where you can buy native plants, visit jcwc.org/resources/restoration.htm#plants.
• Put in a rain garden, which manages stormwater runoff because it allows rain to soak into the ground naturally, reducing the amount of pollution that gets into creeks, rivers and wetlands. It also maintains the natural hydrology so streams don't go dry during the summer.
• Eliminate pesticides and minimize fertilizer use. Dangerous pesticides can be deadly to fish and other wildlife. Fertilizers can also harm wildlife by overwhelming streams with unusually high nutrient levels.
Start your own compost pile as a source of natural fertilizer for your yard.
• Disconnect your downspout. Leave gutters in place while directing the downspout into your yard or a rain barrel for yard watering. This can help prevent creek flooding by filtering the rainwater through the soil into groundwater, rather than sending it directly into the creek or into a combined sewer.
A word of caution, however - be sure to check with your local government before disconnecting, as some soil types and topography are not amenable to downspout disconnection.
• Remove unnecessary concrete or other impervious surfaces on your property to allow rainwater to soak into the ground, which will provide cold groundwater to Johnson Creek in the summer.
Concrete may be replaced with materials such as pervious paving, flagstones or gravel.
• Prevent runoff by sweeping patios and sidewalks instead of hosing them. Hosing wastes water and carries contaminants into the creek.
Also, wash your car on the lawn with biodegradable soap or at a car wash that recycles water.
• Clean up animal waste to prevent it from washing into the creek and contaminating the water.
• Keep your car properly maintained so oil and other automotive solutions do not run into the creek. Always recycle your leftover motor oil curbside or at automobile shops. Properly dispose of other hazardous automotive products, solvents, or yard chemicals at a hazardous waste facility or neighborhood collection events.
For more information, visit jcwc.org/getInvolved/stewardship.htm.