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Creek is new focus of work to restore Westmoreland Park

Salmon runs could be in the future of renovated site


Work on Westmoreland Park and the waterway that runs through it — Crystal Springs Creek — will begin in mid-June, ending about nine years of delays. The goal: freshening up the park and returning fish migration through the urban green space.

“It’s gone through some evolution over time,” says Ronda Fast, environmental program coordinator with the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services. “Hopefully (the project) returns it to a natural state.”

The BES, Portland Parks & Recreation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with TriMet and Metro, are the partners on the project. The $2 million for the project comes mostly from federal funds — delays have been for federal monetary reasons — as well as from the city and transportation agencies.

“It’s been in the works for almost a dozen years; the first part of the master planning process was 10 to 12 years ago,” Fast adds.

The Westmoreland Park master plan was finalized in 2004.

The project had already begun in earnest, with the removal of trees, many of them non-native, the relocation of non-native ducks and geese by the city and Audubon Society and replacement of some of the nine culverts on Crystal Springs Creek. Expected to take about six months, the Army Corps-led project will entail removing concrete around the Westmoreland duck pond that Crystal Springs Creek runs through very slowly, regrading the banks, re-meandering the channels to increase flow and planting almost 400 trees for an increase in urban canopy and some 15,000 plants to return the area into more of a wetland.

“We’re doing the heavy lifting,” says Michelle Helms, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This is a project we’re really excited about doing. It’s going to be an amazing transformation. It’s a pretty area. It’ll be cleaner and healthier for everyone.”

Restoration is expected to cool water, and salmon, steelhead and trout are likely to migrate more through Crystal Springs Creek, which has spring-fed headwaters at Reed College Canyon and Eastmoreland Golf Course and hooks up with Johnson Creek about one mile up from the Willamette River. It can serve as a refuge for salmon from the Willamette.

“This project is really special, because a big chunk of creek will get much better for salmon,” Fast says. “We know that fish are using the creek,” from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife studies. “Ninety-nine percent (of fish) are native, and that is fantastic. The comeback could be exponential with habitat improvements.”

The wetland also will serve as a habitat for native birds — kingfishers, heron, hummingbirds, and possibly bluebirds. With the exportation of non-native ducks and geese — they’ve been donated to farms and homes in places such as Sauvie Island and Redmond — hopes are the poop problem and feeding issue is flushed out, and overgrazing had eroded soil and created sedimentation in the creek, Fast says.

“There are a lot of Canadian geese, and they can fly away and disperse naturally,” she says. “There are areas to graze on the golf course and surrounding ball fields. They’ll be fine.”

Many new pathways will be built around the creek, away from moist or flooded ground, including a boardwalk and viewing platforms over the wetland. The parks department’s role centers around building a new nature-based play area.

About one-third of the park will be closed, including the play area; the pathway down the middle and ball fields will remain open.

The land on which Westmoreland Park sits was originally land claim, and it’s always been a marshy and wet area. Blackberry bushes were everywhere. It became platted for development, and fighter pilots after World War I used the open space recreationally for takeoffs and landings, says Eileen Fitzsimons, a local historian. Through Works Progress Administration/Civilian Conservation Corps, the land became a park in the 1930s.

Fitzsimons believes salmon in the creek are the descendants of the S.M.I.LE. (Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League) Fish Hatchery near the Lambert Bridge owned by the late Clyde Brummel.

Most residents around what had been ignominiously nicknamed “Goose Poop Park” have been in favor of the changes, says Fitzsimons, a 33-year resident of Sellwood who served on an advisory committee.

“It’s deteriorated,” she says. “In the summertime, water doesn’t move and it’s gross.

“People have to look at the overall health of the resource and give it a try.”