Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Two sections of a Western red cedar log from Forest Groves watershed mark one of two main entry points into the recently reopened Fernhill Wetlands.The chain-link fences at Fernhill Wetlands south of Forest Grove came down this past week, reopening the 90-acre wetland’s trails to the public after an extensive renovation project.

“We finally finished construction,” said John Dummer (pronounced Doomer), project manager and principal engineer for Clean Water Services’ watershed management department. Though the most visible construction finished in October, there were “finishing touches” which took several months longer, Dummer said.

The paths follow much the same squarish pattern as those that bordered what was previously three sewage lagoons, although certain sections have been redesigned to meander in a more natural way.

Thanks to heavy rains, the 20-acre Fernhill Lake is almost full, Dummer said, as are some of the “deep zones” sprinkled throughout the site. The rest of the area is being drained when the water gets too deep, he said, because shallower water provides better growing conditions for the 3 billion seeds and 750,000 partially grown species that were planted during last year’s renovation. Once the plants are grown, Fernhill managers will let the shallow areas fill up with 12 to 18 inches of water, Dummer said.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JILL REHKOPF SMITH - In the two 20-acre wetlands closest to the sites southern border, many of the seeds planted just a few months ago are already growing.

Ducks, geese and swans have already been flocking to the wetland, where they are likely feeding on some of the seeds, said Dummer. “We assumed that would happen.”

While many of the plants will flourish this spring and summer, it will take two full years before they create the kind of wetland habitat most condusive to wildlife and water treatment, Dummer said.

— Jill Rehkopf Smith

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