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Earth Day 2008 in West Linn: INVADE THE INVASIVE

West Linn to mark holiday with film viewing and collective ivy pulling at Mary S. Young Park
by: BECKY LUTHER, 
In a community service project last Friday, Athey Creek Middle School students rip out the invasive ivy that threatens to take over Mary S. Young Park. Pictured, from left, are Ben Bodily, Cole Bronson, Calen Wetherell, Jose Mendoza, Joey Donovan, Logan Miller, Sean Pumula and Nick Luther.

Exercise.

Community.

Fresh air.

A new life for native plants.

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, the West Linn community will pull together to become better educated about invasive species - and then pull them out at Mary S. Young Park in West Linn.

These local efforts will coincide with SOLV's Down by the Riverside event sponsored by Oregon Public Broadcasting and The Nature Conservancy.

The documentary 'The Silent Invasion,' which details Oregon's invasive species epidemic, will be shown on April 22 at within West Linn City Hall's Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m. West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester and volunteers will explain what is happening to parks and open spaces in the area.

The one-hour film should help locals gain insight into the silent invaders.

'Any way that volunteers can educate themselves on the serious issue of invasive species is helpful. The more you know about the harmful effects of these plants and animals the better we can work together to eradicate them from our ecosystem,' said Sara Ryan, program coordinator with SOLV.

On May 17 SOLV will host its 12th-annual Down By the Riverside event. The non-profit organization - which brings together the community in projects to enhance the livability of Oregon - will tackle the English ivy invading Mary S. Young Park.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day, a team of volunteers will pull invasive English ivy from the park. The City of West Linn Parks and Recreation Department is recruiting individuals to aid with the pull.

'Rather than having a scattered effort, we really want to show what can be done. We have a competitive spirit here in West Linn,' said Terri Jones, West Linn recreation coordinator. 'We're trying to create a giant ball of ivy so we have something visual to show (at the end of the event). Then, we can challenge other communities.'

Invasive species, Jones explained are not conducive to the wildlife.

'It's a circle of life and if (the invasive species) choke out your native plant life you're going to lose the insects and birds that feed on it,' Jones said.

Invasive species are varieties of non-native plants introduced to the region which out-compete native species for the area's resources and begin to dominate the region. Ivy is not native to our area, Ryan explained, so it alters the ecosystem.

Another problem is the ivy's shallow roots.

'This means that it does not hold soil together well and only grows to a certain depth over a large area, again not holding soil layers together leading to erosion,' Ryan said. 'Furthering erosion are the waxy leaves of ivy that accelerate water drop as they hit the leaves and direct faster moving water to the soil that it is not holding in.'

The berries of ivy are toxic to native birds, Ryan said. And Ivy can climb up trees and become heavy.

'When the wind blows it becomes like a sail,' Ryan said, 'which can topple trees.'

Restoration and beautification events at Mary S. Young Pak are held every first Saturday of the month and usually get between five and 35 volunteers for the day. West Linn resident Stephen Raff attends the monthly ivy pulls and said the events are not only educational but provide camaraderie.

'Take ownership of the park. I use a slogan: 'get the bully out of the park,'' Raff said. 'The goal is to get Mary S. Young ivy-free. … If we don't do something now we won't have a park. Trees have a life span.'

Raff said that if no ivy-pulls took place at the park, eventually Mary S. Young would become an 'ivy island.'

'We have to get (the ivy) off the ground so the natives can come up,' he said.

Last week, some members of the sixth-grade class at Athey Creek Middle School pulled invasive ivy at Mary S. Young Park as part of a community service activity.

'It was fun. We had a contest to see who could pull the most,' said Megan O'Mara, a sixth grader at Athey Creek. 'I've never pulled ivy before (and this) was fun because I had all my friends.'

Jones said that from past ivy pull events, she has noticed not only the amount of physical work accomplished but also the bonds created with community members.

'It's infectious. You can't be out there and meet people and hear how alive they feel doing this and then not be affected by it,' Jones said.

She said that people have told her that native plants and birds have returned to areas that are already rid of invasive ivy.

Ryan said she is looking forward to seeing more than 12,000 Oregonians from around the state volunteering May 17 alongside neighbors and family to keep Oregon clean and beautiful.

The Down by the Riverside event began in 1996 to address community needs after the floods and has grown to include city-wide cleanups, invasive plant pulls, student gardens, cemetery cleanups and other beautification projects in public spaces. When the community comes together for an activity to preserve native wildlife, it unifies the community within their surroundings.

'It encourages other neighborhoods, also,' Jones said. 'Maybe people who live near Wilderness Park or someplace else where there's a known problem will be inspired.'

Raff said that people like to rally around an event - any event - such as the May 17 pull.

'People want a reason to do anything,' he said. 'This is an opportunity to set aside the normal and do something as a community.'

On April 22, doors for the film viewing open at 6 p.m. at West Linn City Hall, 22500 Salamo Road. The Council Chambers are located on the second floor; if possible, call to reserve a spot, as refreshments will be served. Mary S. Young Park is located at 19900 Willamette Drive in West Linn.

Those wanting to volunteer in West Linn next month can sign up on the SOLV Web site at www.solv.org or call the West Linn Parks and Recreation Department at 503-557-4700.