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Hundreds of volunteers turn out to tend to Creek's 'health'

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Along the Springwater Trail in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, JCWC Executive Director Matt Clark digs in, removing invasive species.For years, the first Saturday in March in marked by hundreds of volunteers turning out to help improve the health and well-being of Johnson Creek.

The date was March 2nd this year. And, as always, the project was led by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC). It’s called the “Watershed-Wide Event”, and it took place at a dozen locations spanning from its confluence with the Willamette River, all the way back out to Gresham.

THE BEE toured two Inner Southeast cleanup sites: Ardenwald’s Tideman Johnson Park, and Brentwood-Darlington’s Errol Heights Park.

Some fifty volunteers turned out to bolster Friends of Tideman Johnson Park’s efforts, led by Marianne Colgrove. “We’re putting in about 1,400 new plants along Johnson Creek this morning,” Colgrove observed.

“We have a goal of 80% tree canopy over the creek here,” she explained. “The native plants achieve several things for us. Trees near the creek help keep it running cool, which is very important for the fish. And, these plants will help hold the soil and prevent erosion. Plus, they will provide cover and habitat for wildlife.”

Colgrove reminded that her Friends group has been working to improve the habitat around Johnson Creek since about 2007, as THE BEE has reported periodically in the past. “We’re out here every first Saturday of the month, through June,” she exclaimed. “Come out and join us!”

Volunteers swarm Errol Heights Park

Not far away, working in the west end of Errol Heights Park, just off S.E. 44th Avenue and Tenino Drive, a total of about 75 volunteers – including those participating directly in the JCWC Watershed Wide Event, and others from Friends of Trees – spent the morning cleaning up this relatively unknown natural City Park.

“We’re also planting about 260 native shrubs,” said Johnson Creek Watershed Council Board Member Celeste Mazzacano.

“We’re putting in Mulberry, Serviceberry, Big-Leaf Maple, Snowberry, and Big-Leaf Lupine,” Mazzacano said. “This effort today will turn this bare-looking wasteland, once covered with ivy and blackberry, into a nice mixture of perennial plants that will help the watershed, and catch and filter rainwater runoff before it gets to Johnson Creek.”

It’s clear there are no salmon in this park, located high above Johnson Creek. “This is the riparian buffer zone,” Mazzacano explained. “Because this area is 500 feet away from the stream, everything that happens here – good or bad – all affects the creek.”

Nearby, JCWC Executive Director Matt Clark was dressed in overalls, helping out with a project near S.E. Flavel Street and the Springwater Trail. “In addition to restoring Johnson Creek, helping increase its ecological recovery, people tell us they enjoy being outdoors and volunteering with others,” Clark said.

“And, this event is, for many of our volunteers, their first introduction to JCWC,” Clark added. “From here, they usually join us at other events – both helping to restore the creek, and to let people know that Johnson Creek is still here, and improving.”

After this year’s fifteenth annual JCWC Watershed Wide Event was over, Clark told THE BEE that a total of 8,950 plants had been installed, 20 cubic yards of invasive plants had been removed, 50 bags of garbage had been picked up, and seven yards of mulch had been spread.

“We thank our volunteers for all they do,” Clark said. “Because of them, Johnson Creek’s health is being restored.”