Hundreds of people turned out to admire wildlife, pick up litter and celebrate trees during Earth Day celebrations

Hundreds of people turned out to admire wildlife, pick up litter and celebrate trees during Saturday's Earth Day celebrations in Clackamas County.

Environmental Learning Center

Joe Chapman and Gary Gross brought two of the Audubon Society of Portland's education birds to the Environmental Learning Center at Clackamas Community College's Oregon City campus.

The men said it is important to bring live animals like Finnegan, a peregrine falcon, and Jack, an American kestrel, to events like CCC's Earth Day celebration.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Joe Chapman holds Jack, an American Kestrel, at the celebration of Earth Day at CCC's Environmental Learning Center. Jack is one of the education birds from the Audubon Society of Portland. "I tell the public that animals are part of our environment, but that is not going to have the impact of experiencing [a live bird] on your own. Audubon's motto is to inspire people to love and protect nature," Chapman said.

"There is a difference between reading about birds or seeing photos. To bring these birds to the public will grab people's attention," Gross added.

Shaun Perry, who works for the company that has the food-service contract at CCC, brought his whole family to the ELC, including his wife, Lori, and daughters, Madison, 5, and Mackenzie, 6.

"When the girls heard there was going to be birds and turtles, they thought those were cool things," he said.

Renee Harber, the ELC's education program manager, said she is eager to see what the site will look like after restoration efforts are finished next year.

She pointed to a marshy area and noted that it was the headwaters of Newell Creek, with most of the water coming from stormwater from campus.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Lori and Shaun Perry and their daughters Madison, 5, and Mackenzie, 6, admired the turtles at CCC's Environmental Learning Center on Saturday. "Most of the ponds have filled with sediment, but the restoration will create a serpentine pattern, which will slow down the water. Shade trees will be planted to cool the water, and native plants, like sedges and rushes, will be planted in the water to filter out pollutants," she said.

Other restoration efforts will focus on creating a discovery garden for children, a wetland and additional education programs.

The ELC is "a treasure and we are looking forward to sharing it with the community," Harber added.

Gladstone clean-up

Bill Osburn, a Gladstone resident, partnered with SOLVE to organize a clean-up in and around Cross Park on Saturday.

He hopes to schedule work parties in Gladstone parks once a month in the summer and early fall.

PHOTOS BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Alexus Osburn, 11, hoists a trash bag filled with litter collected at Cross Park in Gladstone. "It's great to see people help out to keep our rivers from getting polluted," Osburn said, adding that these events are also "things to bring people together in a small community."

Osburn's daughter, Alexus, 11, was a busy member of the work crew, picking up litter and helping gather filled trash bags for collection.

It is important for kids to attend these events, she said, because "helping the environment starts as a good habit [when you are young]. Sooner or later I believe the world will be a cleaner place."

Arbor Day celebration

About 200 people participated in Milwaukie's Earth Day clean-up, noted Lisa Batey, Milwaukie City Council president. The group met at Water Tower Park, in the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association area, then fanned out to collect litter.

At noon, volunteers and city dignitaries, including Mayor Mark Gamba, celebrated Milwaukie being named as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and Oregon Department of Forestry. Milwaukie has pledged to spend $2 per resident annually on its trees and celebrate Arbor Day each year.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba speaks at Milwaukie's Water Tower Park, accepting a plaque naming Milwaukie a Tree City USA. Andrew Craig, owner of Springwater Arboriculture, planted the ceremonial Oregon white oak tree at Water Tower Park; the city also gave away more than 200 free trees to those in attendance.

Milwaukie has adopted a number of best practices for urban forestry. For example, to help residents avoid damage to sewers, sidewalks and powerlines the city has an approved list of street trees whose mature size will be appropriate for the planting site.

Holding aloft the official Tree City USA plaque, Gamba told attendees that "the next step is to form a tree board and then create a tree code to protect city trees."

"Becoming a Tree City USA is a big step for Milwaukie and honors the livability our community enjoys," said Mitch Nieman, city of Milwaukie staff liaison to the Parks & Recreation Board. "We couldn't have achieved this recognition without Milwaukie's appreciation for its tree canopy and the tireless efforts of our volunteers, especially Lynn Sharp, who recently passed away."

Sharp, a champion of urban green spaces, was instrumental in helping Milwaukie achieve Tree City USA status while she served on the city's Parks and Recreation Board. She lost her battle with cancer last month.

The mayor's gavel is made from the wood of one of pioneer Seth Lewelling's original peach trees, which arrived as a seedling from China in 1869 and grew on the same block as Milwaukie City Hall until it was removed in the 1980s due to disease and rot.

"Trees are a critical component of a survivable future," Gamba said. "In cities they provide food, reduce heat-island effects, sequester carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. Economists have proven that trees increase individual property values. Well-treed neighborhoods have lower crime rates and healthier human birth outcomes. For those and many other reasons, we are very proud to become a Tree City USA and will work to increase the livability of our city through a robust tree-planting and stewardship program."

Milwaukie's long tradition of appreciating trees includes McLoughlin Boulevard lined with giant sequoias. In 1962 the City Council christened Milwaukie "The Dogwood City of the West." At the same time, council members named the dogwood flower as Milwaukie's official floral emblem.

For more information about the Tree City USA program, visit

Other Earth Day events in the county included one at Errol Heights, sponsored by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.

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