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Saving Shaull Woods protected an important Gresham wildlife habitat to allow all sorts of wildlife to thrive

COURTESY PHOTO: CAROL ZYVATKAUSKAS - An otter munches on a fish at the Fairview Creek Headwaters. Gresham community members and advocates who fought to protect an important greenspace from development ensured that all sorts of animals would be able to enjoy a peaceful brunch long into the future.

Tuesday morning, Oct. 12, Gresham wildlife photographer Carol Zyvatkauskas snapped photos of a pair of otters munching on fish at the Fairview Creek Headwaters, which abuts Southwest Community Park in Gresham off Powell Boulevard between 182nd and Birdsdale Avenues.

Otters visit the headwaters year-round, but tend to be more visible in the fall as fish activity increases. But if not for public outcry earlier this year, and a $2.5 million purchase from the city of Gresham, those headwaters would have been subjected to development and runoff that would have negatively impacted the water system. Those otters would have had to find a new place to enjoy a meal.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Community members rallied to save Shaull Woods earlier this year. The 7.82-acre Shaull Property, 3535 W. Powell Blvd., known colloquially as Shaull Woods, is owned by Bend developer SGS LLC, that planned to take down a stand of Douglas fir trees and erect 30 homes. The developer bought the site before the city could muster needed funds, and raised the price tag to protect the natural gem.

But as neighbors rallied to protect Shaull Woods, Gresham was able to secure the money. The agreement, inked in June and closed in September, was to purchase the property for $2.5 million, with an additional $175,000 to cover a full demolition of all existing structures and other expenses related to the cleanup and environmental consulting.

The funds for the purchase came from Gresham's local share allocation of the Metro's Parks and Nature Bond. In addition, the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District contributed $200,000 to the purchase.

Fairview Creek Headwaters and the Grant Butte Wetlands make up 33 acres and includes more than a third of a mile of Fairview Creek. According to East Multnomah Soil & Water the area is home to 100 wildlife species. It is also one of the only known breeding populations of western painted turtles east of the Willamette River.

Eventually the goal is to improve public access to Shaull Woods, Southwest Community Park, and the Fairview Creek Headwaters. While plans are still be formulated, that could include better hiking trails, informational signs, and a dedicated parking lot.

All about otters

COURTESY PHOTO: CAROL ZYVATKAUSKAS - Two otters were hanging out at a creek near Shaull Woods. In Oregon, the North American river otter can usually be found in waterways west of the Cascade Mountain Range. Though they love to stick in rivers, lakes, ponds or marsh habitats, they are willing to make extensive overland excursions from one home to another.

River otters are considered social animals. They are heavily muscled, with short and powerful legs and webbed toes.

River otters are predators and love eating fish. They also will snack on amphibians, freshwater clams, mussels, snails, small turtles and crayfish.

Across the country, river otters have faced significant loses in habitats. They were a prized catch for their pelts during European colonization, and are susceptible to the effects of environmental pollution.

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