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Volunteers help clean up Johnson Creek

by: David F. Ashton, Westmoreland residents Christine Steele and Joe Liedezeit are doing their part, cleaning banks of Johnson Creek

The invitation to this particular party read, 'Be sure to bring your bad-weather clothing and boots'. But the drippy, dreary weather on March 3rd didn't keep the more than 400 volunteers from slopping around in the mud, as they worked to improve the health of Johnson Creek.

We wondered aloud why so many people turned out for the annual 'work party' sponsored by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC).

'Our family grew up on the Creek,' replied Walt Mintkeski, JCWC's Treasurer. 'We've lived in Eastmoreland since 1975. I took my kids down to the creek.'

At that time, Mintkeski added, Johnson Creek looked like a storm sewer - perhaps even a sanitary sewer! Instead of grousing about it, he started a group called Friends of Johnson Creek to do something to improve its condition. 'At about the same time, the City of Portland started to plan for Johnson Creek. That evolved into the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.'

Gradually, Mintkeski observed, the public is beginning to see Johnson Creek as a valuable public asset. 'It is a wildlife corridor, a waterway. Through our efforts, we are making Johnson Creek into a place we can respect, and of which we can be proud. There's a lot of recreation and wildlife potential here.'

Mintkeski said that the more than 400 volunteers, at ten different sites, were working along the Creek that day.

Volunteers went to work where they were needed. Brooklyn area residents Yarrow Murphy and Gibran Ramos drove out to help at the SE 169th Avenue and Foster Road work site.

'We're graduate students,' Yarrow said. 'It's nice to get out and do something other than study. We planted trees and picked up some trash. It was great. I feel good about it.'

After working in the rain for hours, volunteers were invited to several sites for hot lunches. They dug into bowls of freshly-made chili, accompanied by breads and cookies.

We stopped in at JCWC headquarters located in Milwaukie, and talked with chief chili chef Marty Urman.

'I do graphic-arts work for the council,' Urman reported, 'but I'm volunteering today. I made about 20 gallons of chili. We're feeding eighty hungry volunteers at this site.'

'We got to see things we planted last year near Crystal Springs,' commented District 6 METRO Counselor Robert Liberty, as he prepared to tuck into a bowl of red. 'I was on the mulch 'bucket brigade' this year. We were sinking in our boots 'up to here'. But, we had a lot of people who were helping out.'

We asked Liberty why he had volunteered for the clean-up.

'Why?' he responded. 'I want Johnson Creek to be a living creek. I'd like to see someone pull a Steelhead out of it some day.'