GFUs Clyde Thomas receives Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District Urban Conservationist Award

By Heather DeRosa, Graphic news intern

Clyde Thomas first enjoyed the Hess Creek Canyon as a childhood playground, then as the source of his senior thesis in college and now the 15-acre ecosystem has secured the director of plant services at George Fox University the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District’s Urban Conservationist award.

“The Urban Conservationist Award recognizes an individual, a business or a group that is voluntarily making strides to address urban environmental concerns or move toward more sustainable practices in Yamhill County,” said the YSWCD website. by: GARY ALLEN - Handy work - Clyde Thomas' efforts to return the portion of Hess Creek Canyon that flows through the George Fox University campus to health earned him the accolades of the YSWCD.

“Clyde has been working with the YSWCD for over 10 years to enhance the Hess Creek Canyon which runs through the university,” YSWCD Conservation Planner Marie Vicksta said in an email.

About 10 years ago, Thomas said, George Fox received the first of three grants from YSWCD to promote conservation within the half mile corridor of Hess Creek owned by the university.

“Over the 10 years the work has included removal of 13 acres of non-native invasive vegetation, constructing walking trails, conducting stream clean-up, constructing three bio-falls to dissipate energy and reduce erosion from storm water inlets located on the canyon walls … topping live tress and placing large logs and root wads for wildlife habitat,” Thomas said in an email.

Most of the work has been accomplished thanks to volunteers. GFU students and alumni, Newberg residents, Boy Scouts, Newberg Rotary, the Chehalem Park and Recreation District, Newberg swim and water polo teams, and church youth groups have all donated time to the efforts.

With three major tributaries of the Willamette River and their canyons separating the city from north to south, Newberg has nearly nine miles of streams.

“These green spaces are hidden gems and could be a real asset to the Newberg community-wildness within the city limits,” Thomas said. “Wouldn’t it be great if someday these blackberry, ivy and Reed canary grass-overrun canyons could be restored with native vegetation and provide a trail network through the city where one is able to drop off the surface streets into wildness to walk to the store or the Willamette River or to simply explore.”

The conservation efforts within the George Fox portion of the Hess Creek Canyon is one small step to seeing this dream become a reality.”

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