by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Rob Waibel, Shannon McBride and Emma Waibel worked together to plant willow stakes at North Clackamas Park on Dec. 8, as part of a Friends of Trees event.Even though North Clackamas Park, near the Milwaukie Center, is the county’s “most loved park,” said Tonia Burns, natural resources coordinator for North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, all that love can hurt a fragile area’s stream banks.

So the park district came up with a program to promote “passive recreation and develop areas along the creeks to improve the riparian system,” Burns told the 40 volunteers who showed up Saturday, Dec. 8, to plant native trees, shrubs and grasses on the north side of the park.

The project aims to reduce erosion and create an off-limits space for wildlife migration without reducing the scenic views of trail hikers. The district has erected fences near fragile areas, will provide two overlooks for people to view the creeks and has created a back channel alcove for fish to rest, Burns said.

“You are all here to get the park back to its natural state,” she added.

The event was hosted by Friends of Trees, a Portland nonprofit, and “a volunteer-supported” organization, said Kris Day, a neighborhood trees and green space initiative senior specialist with the group.

This was the organization’s first tree-planting activity at North Clackamas Park, since the late 1990s, and Day told the volunteers, including 10 volunteer Friends of Trees crew leaders, that they would be planting 650 live-stake shrubs, mostly willows; 500 little wetlands-type, grassy, herbaceous plants; 25 white oaks and 115 sword ferns, along the banks of Mount Scott and Camas creeks.

Day was delighted to see so many volunteers because the event was focused on “getting folks out and teaching them why it is important to stay off and protect the stream banks. They are living infrastructure, green infrastructure, and that kind of awareness enables the system to recover.”

The effort was in conjunction with Water Environment Services, and the project is supported, in part, by a Metro Nature In Neighborhoods grant, Day added.

Saturday’s work party was the first of two. The second is scheduled for Feb. 9.

Volunteer worker bees

Kenny Symonds, a Friends of the Trees crew leader, supervised the planting of sword ferns, designed to cluster together to prevent invasive plants from sneaking in and to create a dense area to tell people “we don’t want you to walk here,” he said.

Rick Till, another crew leader, was planting Oregon white oaks, noting that the trees used to cover huge areas in the Willamette Valley, but only 3 percent to 4 percent of the oak habitat is left.

“It is great to see the community come out and spend a morning restoring the watershed. Urban streams are underappreciated — you don’t have to go out to a national park to see all this,” he said.

Shannon McBride of West Linn was part of a group planting willow stakes on the banks of Camas Creek. She has participated in Friends of Trees activities before, and admired how the group organized the events.

“We are here as a family,” McBride said. “We can just come in and be worker bees and feel like we’ve done something for the environment.”

Friends of Trees

The next planting event at North Clackamas Park, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive, Milwaukie, is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013.

No experience is necessary, and there is no need to register in advance — just show up. Friends of Trees provides gloves, tools and trained guidance, as well as breakfast treats, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

Volunteers younger than 18 will need a signed waiver from their parent or guardian.

For more information about Friends of Trees, call 503-595-0213.

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