Taking care of Mother Earth is everyone's responsibility. And there is no better place to start than in our own backyard - or even your neighbor's backyard.

Coming up later this month, folks living in East County will have an opportunity get their hands dirty - and wet - in the ongoing efforts to clean up, restore and stabilize Johnson Creek.

This is the creek that flows directly through the heart of Gresham, and we should all claim this stream as our own. Though volunteers have been plugging away at restoration efforts, Johnson Creek remains a work in progress.

While you wouldn't want to drink untreated water from any creek, it's especially true of Johnson Creek, which is polluted with E.coli bacteria, pesticides and other toxins. Public health officials even warn this creek is an unsafe place to play.

At the same time, the loss of native vegetation (that provides cooling shade) has led to high water temperatures and bank erosion. Those water-quality issues have serious ramifications for aquatic life in the creek and to a smaller extent the Willamette River, which faces its own issues of water quality.

A Johnson Creek clean-up day is planned between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday, Aug. 27, with volunteers meeting at Mill Park, 6201 S.E. Overland St., Milwaukie. That may seem a bit far afield of the Gresham area, until you stop and consider that the problems with Johnson Creek originate over an area spanning 54 square miles. The pollution and habitat issues originating in Gresham and outlaying areas have a very real impact on water quality in the lower creek near Milwaukie.

Solving the issues with Johnson Creek must be viewed as a long-term endeavor, one project at a time, and without regard to lines drawn on a map.

In that vein, that's why we appreciate the trend toward rain gardens here in East County. The Gresham Outlook ran a story in its Wednesday, Aug. 17, edition, describing the trend of incorporating these runoff collectors into road overhauls.

When you think of a watershed, you need to remember the basic premise of plumbing - it all flows downhill.

When rain falls in Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village, or anywhere, that water collects on dirty pavement and immediately starts flowing toward creeks and rivers, carrying with it a cocktail of grime and toxins. What that means is this: Toxins originating on Gresham's Powell Boulevard, as one example, easily could soon flow past Milwaukie and on to the Willamette and Columbia rivers, and eventually the Pacific Ocean.

But rain gardens capture that flow and allow the runoff to seep back into the soil near the point of origin, slowing the spill of pollutants into waterways.

It's a nice idea, and a perfect example of how folks in East County are taking steps to care for Mother Earth and to act as good neighbors to those who live downstream.

Please consider joining that effort by volunteering a few hours at the Johnson Creek clean-up event in Milwaukie.

To register a group or yourself for the cleanup event, send an email to Amy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 503-652-7477 or text 541-968-3530.

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