Featured Stories

Refuge offers respite for wildlife fans

More than 2000 attend grand opening ceremony.

The idea behind the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge was hatched in 1990. Sixteen years, 10,000 trees and shrubs, and several million dollars later, the vision for an urban wildlife refuge is a reality.

Sherwood residents and local community leaders welcomed the refuge project with a grand opening ceremony on June 3 and 4. It was a huge success. Both days were busy with lots of visitors. Portland Audubon and other birding experts armed with scopes and knowledge helped us out with tours on both days.

As a bonus, the weather held out on Saturday, even if there were some showers on Sunday. Fortunately, the Refuge looks great in all weather, and the plants and wildlife certainly don't mind the rain. If you haven't visited yet, be sure to take time for a walk. The one-mile nature trail is graveled and accessible for all and there are benches, ponds, woods, three fabulous overlook areas and information signs. Be sure to pick up the brochures at the trail entrance. Bring your binoculars. It's open dawn to dusk, parking is ample, and so far there is no fee.

Among the groups helping out at the Grand Opening was the Refuge Club of Sherwood Middle School. The club was formed several years ago with support from the Friends of the Refuge to take advantage of the learning opportunities on the Refuge and also to help out with Refuge projects. Refuge Club teachers, Janet Bechtold and Debbie Frankel, recently reported on the past year's activities. This year, the 25 students in the club focused on learning about native plants. In fall 2005, they received a Nature of Learning grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to produce native plant profiles. The profiles will be placed in the Sherwood Middle School Native Plant Garden, and will be used for the Friends of the Refuge's native plant sales during Migratory Songbird Festivals, and they hope they will be used in Snyder Park's native plant garden.

A few of the special activities the teachers set up to help the students learn about native plants included a professional photographer who taught them how to photograph plants; a trip to Bosky Dell Nursery to practice their plant-profiling skills; and a visit from the Refuge biologist, who talked about the wildlife value of native plants. There seems to be good-sized group of kids developing an appreciation for the natural world. They are a great asset to both the Refuge and the community.

Another person who helped behind the scenes at the Grand Opening was Janice Jenkins, an AmeriCorps member who has an 11-month position with the Refuge. Janice is serving as the Refuge's environmental education and volunteer coordinator. Her most important task is to field test and refine the newly implemented environmental education curriculum. The pilot program for the curriculum began with the creation of a lesson plan guidebook by local teachers, followed by a teacher workshop in April. The Refuge's volunteer naturalists and Janice then accompanied the teacher-lead field trips in May. Evaluations of the materials will be done, and then there will be another teacher workshop and more field trips beginning this September.

Janice previously worked as a graphic designer for 15 years. She said she decided to change careers because, 'I spent all my free time outdoors, hiking, camping and volunteering with kids-so I should work at what I love!'

She did not want to spend the rest of her life in front of a computer, and so decided to move to Oregon and went back to school for a BA degree in Environmental Science. While in Portland, Janice decided to apply to the Northwest Service Academy (NWSA), which is part of the larger national service organization, Americorps. The NWSA focuses on community needs concerning the environment in Oregon and Washington. AmeriCorps members come in all ages 17 and up and come from all educational levels from GED to Ph.D. The AmeriCorps program allows people like Janice to change careers and gain valuable experience while helping cash-strapped non-profit organizations like the Refuge provide public benefits. For more information on AmeriCorps, visit www.americorps.org .

For information about the Friends of the Refuge and our volunteer opportunities, visit www.friendsoftualatinrefuge.org, which also has a link to the Refuge. You can also leave a voice message at 503-972-7714.