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What kind of trash is dumped in Johnson Creek?

Group hauls 3 tons of trash from waterway each year -

OUTLOOK PHOTO - Gary Klein loads trash and rusted shopping carts pulled from Johnson Creek into an ATV trailer.What kind of trash ends up in Johnson Creek?

Everything from mattresses to tires, street signs, shopping carts, sleeping bags and soda cans, according to Melanie McCandless, a vice chair for the Johnson Creek Watershed Council board of directors.

Volunteers remove three tons of garbage a year from the 26-mile urban waterway, and Saturday, Aug. 27 was no different.

Over 100 people participated in this year’s clean up, which was sponsored by the Watershed Council, Overland Park Coalition and the Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization. Community members and committed environmentalists convened at Mill Park in Milwaukie around 8:30 a.m. before spreading out to key sites along the Creek.

About 180,000 people live within the Creek’s watershed, a proximity to humanity that McCandless calls “both a blessing and a curse.”

OUTLOOK PHOTO - Volunteers pull a waterlogged carpet out of the water.“I really believe in the value of streams in urban areas, and I don’t believe in writing off nature,” she said. “But we need to be good stewards.”

The longest free-flowing stream in Portland, Johnson Creek’s headwaters spring near the unincorporated town of Cottrell in Clackamas County. The Creek crisscrosses the border of Multnomah and Clackamas counties eight times before joining the Willamette River in Milwaukie.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers Johnson Creek an “impaired” water body. Illegal dumping is only the most obvious symptom of human interference.

Deforestation has left the Creek without enough shade, leading to elevated temperatures and a less hospital spawning environment for native Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout. Overdevelopment leaves the banks vulnerable to erosion during flash flooding, while excessive stormwater can cause septic tanks and sewer systems to back up and overflow.

None of that was a deterrent to Anne Mullan, a first-time volunteer who spends her days as a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

OUTLOOK PHOTO - Melanie McCandless points out clean-up sites around Johnson Creek.After a day spent pulling litter from the water, Mullan’s haul included “a lot of styrofoam, glass, a lot of cigarette butts, not so many cans, coffee cup lids” plus a fish hook, one plastic rum bottle, a flip flop, a shoe, a coverless book and even some underwear.

“The stuff that goes in here ends up on the beach or in the ocean,” she said. “Knowing that I can help stop that makes me happy.”

Neighbor Gary Klein was using his ATV to move waterlogged debris from the shores of Johnson Creek to a dumpster near his house on Riverway Lane.

He said he’d been participating in informal efforts to clean up Johnson Creek since at least the last millennium.

“I’ve been playing in the crick since the ‘50s, and I just think it’s a real nice place,” he said. OUTLOOK PHOTO - Anne Mullan is a first-time volunteer during the 2016 Johnson Creek Clean Up.