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East County citizens, volunteers get down to Earth on Saturday

Workshops, ivy removal mark Earth Day events
by: John Klicker, Gresham city workers Brenden Hoberg, left, and Bob Brown, right, wrap a pallet full of TVs as they volunteer during the Earth Day Celebration at Gresham City Hall on Saturday, April 19. Residents of Gresham and Wood Village brought in old electronics, fluorescent light bulbs and computers for recycling.

Some hands got dirtier than others, but East County volunteers and citizens of all ages took on a variety of environment-oriented activities to celebrate Earth Day 2008.

Both Gresham and Fairview chose Saturday, April 19, to hold activities for the 38th annual Earth Day, which was officially Tuesday, April 22. Despite a foreboding forecast of rain, snow and wind, Mother Nature was relatively kind to those who gathered at Fairview Woods Park and Gresham City Hall. Doses of sunshine and temperatures in the 50s kept events humming through the morning and early afternoon hours.

The city of Gresham sponsored a multi-faceted festival that encompassed ecological-based showcases and workshops, a recycling rally, tree giveaway, live animal demonstrations, food, musical performance and more.

Children's storyteller Will Hornyak of Milwaukie gently guided a rapt young audience through a 'tale of the bog' to illustrate wetlands' importance to ecological health. Children donned whimsical costumes and makeup to help tell the tale. Hornyak, 54, noted how today's children are better informed when it comes to environmental responsibility.

'This is a much better-educated generation than when I was a kid,' he said, citing the prevalence of tree plantings and river cleanups geared toward youngsters. 'The kids are more directly involved. They're understanding more, and they're doing more.'

Jim Lind of Gresham and his son, Brayden, braved the winds as the Springwater Trail High School World Drumming and Marimba Band hammered out intricate rhythms on the plaza outside City Hall. The Linds enjoyed the live owls brought by the Portland Audubon Society and the Fish Friendly Car Wash demonstration.

'I wanted to get my son exposed to this early,' said Lind, a retired parks manager at Oxbow and Blue Lake. 'It's real educational for the family.'

Rachel Felice of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council also catered to kids with an interactive demonstration of how different birds feed themselves. Children used an eyedropper and colored liquid to simulate a hummingbird's eating style.

'They try to eat like a bird,' she said while helping a girl get the hang of the eyedropper motion.

The Columbia Slough group draws awareness to water and wetland health in the slough watershed through volunteer-driven workshops and events like a slough cleanup on May 17 and a canoe regatta on July 27 (visit www.columbiaslough.org for a schedule of activities). It's the group's fourth year at Gresham's Earth Day activities.

'We do something different each year,' Felice said. 'It's birds this year.'

A few miles away in Fairview, volunteers took a hands-on approach as about 25 volunteers participated in a SOLV-IT plant-cleanup project at Fairview Woods Park off Bridge Street.

Neighbors and student volunteers from Reynolds High School toiled for hours in the woodsy park, removing a major overgrowth of English ivy. The non-native plant had all but taken over the long-neglected neighborhood enclave crisscrossed with walking trails. Unchecked ivy had choked the life out of several Douglas fir and cedar trees.

'We chose the park for an ongoing commitment. We want to get it back to where we're fully using it,' said John Gessner, community development director. He credits the national SOLV organization, as well as local businesses such as Carlino's and 12 Mile Disposal, with making the project possible.

'We want to open up the view,' he said. 'We pick up the litter as we find it.'

Tugging on a particularly tenacious vine, Renee Brokaw, 17, called the work 'pretty fun.'

'It's better to get the big vines, because it comes off easier,' said the Gresham High biology student.

Like Brokaw, Reynolds honors student Austin Danielson, 18, came to Fairview Woods to perform community service on behalf of Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church. He enjoys the interaction the Earth Day project promotes.

'It's good to cooperate, and it's fun to work together with people - whether you know them or not.'

Ivy removal will continue this weekend as the city of Troutdale holds its Earth Day event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 26, at Columbia Park, 1900 S.W. Cherry Park Road. Volunteers will plant trees and remove ivy from the park's forested area. For information, call 503-666-8303 or 503-665-9705.