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Advocate recalls Drano Creek


Local author writes history of Fanno Creek, and his own journey to advocacy

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Activist Eric Lindstrom has spent years researching the history of Fanno Creek, the creek --- seen here in Durham --- has gone through years of resurgence after near-extinction in the 1960s. His book Up Fanno Creel: Confessions of an Accidental Advocate is available on Amazon.com.Eric Lindstrom stood on the bridge connecting Durham Park and Tualatin Community Park with his dog, Buddy, on Monday.

“That’s it,” he said, pointing over the railing at the water. “That’s the baby.”

Below him, the Tualatin River flows along, but Lindstrom, an environemntal advocate and photographer, pays it no mind. He is focused on “the baby,” the small tributary that leads into the river.

It’s here, right under the bridge, where Fanno Creek ends.

“This is where the real story is,” Lindstrom said.

Up Fanno CreekLindstrom wrote a book chronicling the tumultuous history of Fanno Creek, which faced extinction from pollution in the 1960s and has made a comeback to become a major tributary to the Tualatin River.

Lindstrom’s book, “Up Fanno Creek: Confessions of an Accidental Advocate” took five years to research and write, Lindstrom said.

“For the first two years, I just did research, and I didn’t think about what the story might be,” he said.

Another year-and-a-half of writing, and another year of editing, and Lindstrom was ready to publish.

“I think the best part of the book are the last six pages, where I just list all my references,” Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom was inspired to write the book after stumbling across the creek one day.

“The creek got to me. I feel like I’m wrapped up in it, and it’s wrapped up in me,” he said.

Lindstrom, a life-long nature lover, said he visits the confluence of the river at least once a month, making the short walk from Tualatin to Durham.

“I just have a tremendous amount of respect for it,” Lindstrom said. “I’ve been to some pretty spectacular natural places, but this here is the total package. I sat down at a bench on that very first day, and I had an experience. It was bizarre.”

On one of his first visits, Lindstrom said he fell into the creek accidently, swallowing a mouthful of creek water.

It was the first of several times Lindstrom would find himself in the drink.

“It just happens, sometimes,” Lindstrom joked.

‘We’re not there yet’

“Up Fanno Creek” tells two stories. The first is his own — how a country boy from Arkansas became an environmental advocate in Portland.

“It is a personal narrative about this guy that was fooling around near the creek one day, and the next thing you know, I’m an advocate, which was the last thing I wanted to do,” Lindstrom said. “I didn’t want to get involved.”

“I was retired,” he added. “I didn’t want any big leadership roles.”

The book also dives into the creek’s history, stretching back 16.5 million years to its birth and the many factors that have tried to snuff out the creek over the years.

Lindstrom is speaking at a meeting of the Tualatin Riverkeepers on Sunday, Jan. 27, in Tualatin. Click here for more details

The creek faced extinction in the 1960s, after it was flooded with pollutants, waste and garbage from local buildings, most notably a battery plant near Denney Road in Beaverton that dumped waste into the creek, Lindstrom said, as did several sewage collection and distribution plants.

“They used to call it ‘Drano Creek,’” Lindstrom said. “You could smell it before you could see it.”

The once flourishing waterway was so filled with garbage, waste and pollution that it posed a health risk.

Signs were posted along the creek, warning passersby not to swim.

“Do not swim here,” the signs read in large, underlined letters. “Do not take chances with your health.”

“This place was a mess,” Lindstrom said. “And in some ways, it still is.”

Today, the stream is leaps and bounds ahead of how it once was, but Lindstrom said there is a lot more that needs to happen.

“As much work as we’ve done, we’re not there yet,” he said.

‘Just spend time out here’

The creek has survived thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, and government agencies such as Clean Water Services, Lindstrom said.

“I think they are doing a great job,” Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom said there is not enough awareness of the creek, and the many issues it faces on its road to recovery. “A lot of people have given up on these streams, but there is a chance to make these streams work for us, especially with storm water control.”

Lindstrom said he wants the book to start a conversation with people, to get them out into nature and understand the ways we impact the natural world.

“You never write a book like this for the money,” he said. “What I really want is for people to get interested and spend more time out in nature. It has been great for me.

“You can be an advocate like me and go to all these meetings, we need more people who will do that, or you can get very basic with it and help plant trees or just spend time out here.”

Copies of the book are available on Amazon.com, Powell's On Demand Books and on his website, upfannocreek.com.