Serving as your elected Metro councilor has provided me with the opportunity and motivation to participate in more events than when I worked in the private sector. These opportunities have given me new experiences and more exposure to the integrated relationship between nature and the lives we lead every single day. One specific area of work and investment, natural area restoration, provides many forms of value and payback to each of us, individually as well as collectively.

Natural area restoration work helps provide you with clean water, helps our communities save money, provides educational opportunities to children, youth and adults, supports local jobs, offers you community experiences with your fellow residents and helps nature too. Three natural area rebuilding sites in Washington County have brought this to life for me.

Along with other volunteers, I participated in a planting program at Munger Farms, a Metro property in Washington County. We continued efforts to revive this large field to be a healthy floodplain of the Tualatin River, planting native flowers and grasses. The adjacent forest has recently been cleared of clogging undergrowth and non-native trees, and we planted more native plants and grasses.

It was fun — yes, even in the pouring rain — to contribute and to learn about the role of floodplains in clean water and healthy habitat for animals and people. It was also a wonderful shared experience for this group of total strangers turned community comrades.

Chehalem Ridge, a spectacular 1,200 acre natural area, looks out over Tualatin Valley farmland and five Cascade Mountain peaks: Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood and Jefferson. It has over 28 drainages on three sides of this ridge, plus three year-round streams all flowing into the Tualatin River just south of Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove.

Public guided tours advertised in Metro GreenScene have given me multiple opportunities to experience this precious place and learn more about its role and evolution in our clean water and natural habitat.

Gotter Prairie, visible from Southwest Hillsboro Highway in Scholls, offers native wet prairie and floodplain habitat along the lower Tualatin River. It has native prairie plant species and a very unique habitat. 

Have you seen the large plain of blooming camas flowers in past springtimes? Those plants were propagated at local nurseries (employing people), and along with the native grasses have been planted by volunteers, students and experienced workers.

And closer to our drinking water source, the Penstemon Prairie area along Fern Hill Road, south of Forest Grove, provides a healthy floodplain for the Tualatin River as it transports water to the drinking water treatment facility. As I have bicycled along Fern Hill Road in all months of the year, I have gotten to experience the progression of the seasons.

During the late winter months I have had the pleasure of observing huge flocks of migrating birds floating in the floodwater of this prairie. And in summer months, with thunderstorms that like to drop buckets of rain in a short time, the native flowering plants, trees and grasses help slow and filter that water, limiting flash floods and other destructive natural events.

So I have been a lucky lady having these experiences. I have learned firsthand that natural areas don’t just take care of themselves. If natural areas are not actively managed and restored, they degrade significantly over time. Invasive plants can take over; erosion can damage water quality; threatened wildlife can disappear.

Putting off key restoration work can make the same project more expensive — or even impossible — in the future. We urban residents and businesses in Washington County rely upon clean water and its systems. This involves clean creeks, stable creek and river banks, and healthy floodplains, all of which contribute to our own clean drinking water and transfer clean treated sewage water, including cleaned industrial water, back into the natural system.

From creeks to the Tualatin River, to the Willamette River, along the Columbia River and then out to the ocean — it’s all connected to us, our lives, our homes, our economy and jobs.

I hope you will continue to support Metro in its efforts to support restoration for natural areas and parks, because it makes a difference for you, for your family and for businesses throughout our area.

Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington represents District 4, which includes northern Washington County, Beaverton, Aloha, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Hillsboro.

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