Dress in costume, stay for pizza at sites in Milwaukie during 20th-annual Waterside Wide Event

Helping the environment, meeting new people, wearing costumes and eating pizza — all will be features of Johnson Creek Watershed Council's 20th annual Watershed Wide Event on March 3.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Volunteers planted native trees and shrubs at Westmoreland Park during last year's Watershed Wide Event, organized by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council. It will be the council's largest restoration event ever, said Courtney Beckel, JCWC volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers will be able to choose from 10 different sites in the Metro area, including three in the Milwaukie area. Once at their site, workers will plant native trees and shrubs and remove invasives like blackberry and English ivy, Beckel said.

Since this will be the 20th year the council has sponsored the event, organizers wanted something memorable to set it apart, and so they came up with the idea of costumes.

"There is no specific theme, but the costumes must be culturally respectful and must not distract from the work," Beckel said, adding that she recommends funny hats and capes. A pizza party at two of the sites will follow the planting event.

Serious purpose

Although wearing costumes to a restoration activity might seem silly, this event has a serious purpose, said Daniel Newberry, JCWC's executive director.

"The first annual Watershed Wide Event in 1999 was undertaken a year after then-Gov. [John] Kitzhaber created the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds to prevent the listing of coho salmon on the Endangered Species List," he said.

"One of the biggest threats to coho and other salmonids in the Metro area, and throughout much of Oregon, is high stream temperature. Nineteen years later, our organization and many other public and nonprofit agencies have made huge investments in reforesting streams, wetlands and other natural areas to provide much-needed shade in Portland," Newberry said.

"As our climate continues to heat up, stream shading becomes ever more important in the effort to cool our streams so they can continue to be salmon-friendly," he added.

Johnson Creek is the only free-flowing stream in Portland that has a population of salmon.

"Residents of our watershed love their urban creek. Last year we had 2,000 volunteer signups, and volunteers gave 8,000 hours of their time to the council," Newberry said.

He added that most of this time was spent planting trees, removing invasive species and gathering environmental data that is used to improve public land management.

Community involvement

"Volunteering makes people happy. You're giving to others and giving back to the community and the environment," Beckel said.

Work parties like this one give residents "a chance to see nature in their own area and help to develop a sense of connection and stewardship" to the land, she said.

It's well understood that planting trees is important for erosion control, adding shade to the stream to lower temperatures for salmon and to mitigate climate change. In addition, planting native trees and shrubs is crucial, as invasive species can form a "monoculture and choke out natives," she said.

A large number of insects depend on those native plants, and when the insect population declines, then this "goes down the food chain for birds" and other creatures that rely on insects, Beckel said.

Local sites

Those interested in volunteering for the Watershed Wide event need to register for a specific site ahead of time at Milwaukie-area locations include the Springwater Corridor between Linwood and Bell avenues, Tideman Johnson Park, near Southeast 45th Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard and a private site on Southeast 55th.

Once people register for a specific work party, Beckel will send an email with directions to that site.

"Last year, volunteers planted 7,000 native shrubs and removed five acres of invasive species at 10 different sites," Beckel said.

A wide range of native plants will be available, including red flowering currant, Indian plum, Pacific ninebark, oceanspray, thimbleberry and elderberry.

"This is our 20th annual, and it's a really big deal. We're aiming for 400 people to be part of this monumental event," Beckel said.

Volunteering at an event such as this one "gives people a sense of joy and a sense of deep connection to the land."

Work the watershed

What: Johnson Creek Watershed Council presents the 20th annual Watershed Wide Event

When: 8:45 a.m.-noon March 3; pizza parties and costume contests to follow at two locations from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Where: Register for work parties at 10 sites at

More: Visit or call 503-652-7477, ext. 101

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