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Citizen complaints drive clean-up at local natural area after reports of vomit, trash, graffiti

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Beal Wetlands is a popular spot for birders and those looking to enjoy nature. Jocelyn Salazar has been enjoying Beal Wetlands in Forest Grove ever since she moved here in 2013. She likes feeding the ducks and soaking up the area's natural beauty during quiet strolls.

But lately, that idyllic scene has been marred with graffiti, beer bottles, paint splatter, vomit and broken boards. "It's just a disaster," the Forest Grove resident said of the wetlands area.

In general, Salazar has noticed "it's been more of a mess around town," Salazar said.

City of Forest Grove Public Works Supervisor Dave Willer tends to agree. He's noticed a lot more graffiti and illegal dumping of furniture and trash around the city in the last few months. This type of vandalism has "ramped up around town" and at the wetlands, said Willer, who hasn't seen it this bad in the more than 20 years he's been with the department.

And unfortunately, he wasn't shocked to learn of the complaints at Beal Wetlands, located just east of Main Street on Beal Road, where vandalism and litter have been perennial problems. Willer's crew spent a recent afternoon picking up trash and beer bottles, fixing a few broken bench boards and removing graffiti. NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Public Works employees replaced boards and cleaned up trash recently at the wetlands.

Willer hasn't seen paint splatter at the wetlands before, but noticed some on his latest visit. Salazar said it looks like someone has been using paintballs and she's afraid they're shooting at the ducks who used to waddle over to her for treats but now seem wary.

Salazar said it looks like there might be a group of people camping at the wetlands or using it as a spot for parties and has noticed "more strange characters" when she visits. Last time she walked around there was vomit on the ground and several Corona bottles in the bushes.

Willer said he'd love to send crew members out to the area more frequently, but they just don't have the time and manpower, so for now cleanups are mostly complaint driven. Employees usually mow on the wetland sproperty every other week, but Willer said they've been behind this spring and summer after a rough winter that caused more damage than usual around town.

In addition, city public works staffing levels haven't recovered from Great Recession cuts. And this wetlands is maintained by public works employees, not parks and recreation staff.

The condition of the space is disappointing "because it's for everybody, you know?" Willer said, but it just takes a few people to significantly damage the area. NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Litter is a constant problem at the site.

At the same time, though, Willer said the city has done a lot of work at the site to make it an enjoyable space. In the early 1990s it was just a patch of grass and weeds with some streams running through it. Now it has a parking area, benches, signs and a pole for osprey nesting. "There's a lot of good that's happened out there," he said. "Generally speaking, there really hasn't been a lot of trouble."

In addition, some of the unsightly issues, such as broken bench boards, might simply be due to age.

Willer accepts complaints and concerns at 503-992-3122 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Graffiti on the bird lookout area stands out.

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