Forget the red carpet treatment.
Two local filmmakers think a green carpet would be more appropriate for the first showing of their movie, 'Lonely Tree,' part of Milwaukie's Watershed Event, on Friday, April 13, at the Masonic Hall in downtown Milwaukie.
The film's title is actually, 'Lonely Tree - Old Growth in Peril at 3-Creeks,' noted Greg Baartz-Bowman, the director and editor, and the producer, along with cinematographer Mark Gamba, both Milwaukie residents.
'If we keep cutting down all the trees,' like the Oregon white oaks at the Three-Creeks Natural Area near the North Clackamas Aquatic Park, 'then all we will have are lonely white oaks spread around the county, like the one oak tree at the roundabout that is all by itself,' Baartz-Bowman added.
The event will also showcase three other films: 'Greatest Migration,' by Andy Maser, which follows the wild salmon as they travel into Idaho; 'Trout on the Wind,' by Sam Drevo, a dam-removal film about Trout Creek on the Wind River in Washington state; and 'Of Forest and Men,' a United Nations film, culled from a larger film called 'Home,' that is narrated by actor Edward Burns.
The point of all four films is that 'watersheds and forests need each other to survive,' Gamba noted.
MUST takes action
Milwaukie's Watershed Event is co-hosted by MUST - Milwaukie Understands Sustainable Transitions - an organization founded by Gamba, a member of the city's planning commission and a professional, internationally known photographer, who has worked for The National Geographic.
'I decided to get together a group of people more forward thinking and more sustainably minded, to be a voice to the City Council,' he said.
Baartz-Bowman, a MUST member as well, has been employed in the film industry in Los Angeles, working on screenplays, feature films and corporate training films for Logolite Entertainment. He and his family moved to Milwaukie in 2007, and he founded Straw Bale Films in 2011, because he wanted to establish a film company in Clackamas County that would focus on sustainable practices and environmental concerns.
The film is completely self-financed, Baartz-Bowman noted, and Milwaukie's Watershed Event is free. Seating is limited, but if there is enough demand to see 'Lonely Tree,' another showing may be arranged, he said.
Trees in peril
The two men decided to make 'Lonely Tree,' as they became aware of the Sunnybrook Boulevard Extension project, a proposed less-than-one-mile road from the intersection of 82nd Avenue and Sunnybrook, cutting through the natural area behind the Clackamas Community College Harmony Campus and the North Clackamas Aquatic Park.
The county wants to build the road to give increased access to the college campus and to push traffic onto Harmony Road. To do that, many of the 200-year-old oak trees and surrounding vegetation would have to be cut down.
Baartz-Bowman said he first became aware of the Three-Creeks Natural Area through reading news stories, and then took a tour of the area.
'There is a legacy oak forest in my backyard. When I went out there and saw how beautiful the trees are, I decided the best way to stop the road was to make a film. Those trees are so special, and when I saw how much we have neglected and abused them, I had no choice,' he said.
Gamba also toured the Three-Creeks area, and called it 'an amazing little piece of original Willamette Valley habitat.'
He is generally opposed to spending money to build roads, and pointed out that we cannot continue to burn the amount of carbon fuel that we do today, not to mention how much we will burn in the future.
There is a very real chance oil resources will be totally depleted, and the county is proposing to cut down 200- to 300-year-old trees to build a road that will only be good for two decades at most, Gamba said.
The two men spent more than 100 hours of their spare time making 'Lonely Tree,' which Baartz-Bowman called an 'advocacy documentary.' The overall goal of the film is to acquaint the audience with the road project, which was shelved in May 2011, but could return.
The two men hope that people will contact the county commissioners and ask them to keep the Sunnybrook Extension permanently off the table.
Books have been written as to why it is imperative to preserve dwindling natural areas within urban areas, Gamba said.
'Studies show that people in cities value nature, parks, green areas,' he said. 'Those are rare pockets these days. To build a road to nowhere through one of the last remaining green spaces is ridiculous.'
Baartz-Bowman pointed out that the state has less than 1 percent of legacy white oaks left, and 'we need to maintain our native landscape to save it for us and future generations - we have to take positive action, or it will be gone.'
It is ironic, he pointed out, that Metro is spending millions to recreate natural areas, 'when here in Clackamas County we already own an oak forest. And it is in the watershed, important to drinking water, clean water and fish. The ultimate goal is to create a wildlife sanctuary, and getting the road off the books is the first step.'
A local band called The Old Light provided some of the music for the film's soundtrack. The title song, 'Lonely Tree,' was written and recorded by Baartz-Bowman's younger brother 20 years ago.
'He was in a reggae band called The Ravers, and he wrote and sang a song called 'Lonely Tree.' The lyrics are: 'There stands a lonely tree where a forest used to be. Can you tell me what can we do?' Now, with this film, I feel like I have answered his question,' Baartz-Bowman said.
Magic of nature
Hundreds of words have been written about the Three-Creeks Natural Area, but both men noted that they experienced something that goes beyond mere description as they interacted with the site.
'I had a magic moment when I stumbled on two deer that did not run away. They wanted to be filmed - it was special. I felt honored,' Baartz-Bowman said.
'Nature enters you in a way it doesn't when I am on a sidewalk. Ways you can't predict - suddenly you are different, in a good way.'
'It is the same thing I have experienced in other groves of old growth - something not discernible by eyes, ears or nose. The best word is magic. Old growth everywhere has a power that you have to experience. Three-Creeks is somewhat diminished, but the old trees are still there,' Gamba said.
Audience members will see many familiar residents voicing their opinions about Three-Creeks, the two men said, including Chris Runyard, the head of the Tsunami Crew, a group of volunteers dedicated to the preservation of the site.
Others include: Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, an Ardenwald resident; former Milwaukie City Council member, Deborah Barnes; Milwaukie Mayor, Jeremy Ferguson; Jim Labbe, an urban conservationist with the Audubon Society of Portland; many Clackamas County residents; Tsunami Crew members and more.
Shaun Lowcock, a Milwaukie resident, helped with the production of the film and provided the narration, Baartz-Bowman said.
Baartz-Bowman and Gamba are now hard at work on the next project for Straw Bale Films, 'Un-Dam-It,' another advocacy documentary, designed to make the removal of the dam at the mouth of Kellogg Creek a high priority. The city has $1 million from the federal government earmarked for the project, but Gamba estimates that the overall cost would be closer to $4 million.
'The big holdout is all the sediment around the dam is heavily polluted, with DDT and more. That needs to be removed and/or treated, and that will cost an estimated $2.5 million,' he said.
Dam removal is critical for fish passage, he noted, saying that the Willamette River has almost no spawning grounds left, and Kellogg Creek was a big one in the past, with tens of thousands of salmon going up the creek.
Based on old records, the two men said that as many as 30,000 salmon could return to the creek, once the dam is removed. They noted also, that this could be a big tourist draw for Milwaukie; if the dam were removed, people could ride Milwaukie Max to the site, stand on the bridge and watch an enormous salmon run.
Gamba added: 'My goal is to see that dam come out during or just following the construction of light-rail's Kellogg Bridge.'
See the film
Straw Bale Films and MUST present Milwaukie's Watershed Event
Doors open at 7 p.m. on April 13
Venue: Milwaukie Masonic Lodge, 10636 S.E. Main St.
To see a clip of 'Lonely Tree - Old Growth in Peril at 3-Creeks,' visit www.strawbalefilms.com.
Three other films will be shown that night, including: 'Greatest Migration,' by Andy Maser; 'Trout on the Wind,' by Sam Drevo; and 'Of Forest and Men,' a United Nations film, culled from a larger film called 'Home,' that is narrated by actor Edward Burns.
Bike Milwaukie: Bicyclists will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 15, at Milwaukie's City Hall, and ride through neighborhoods to end at Three-Creeks, where participants can go on a tour and see the tallest oak trees at the natural area.
To find out more about MUST, visit: www.meetup.com/Milwaukie-Understands-Sustainable-Transition-MUST.