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Jerry Herrmann is president of Rivers of Life Center, a nonprofit organization focusing on youth training in the Willamette Valley.

With all the focus on the virus and attendant complications, it's good to know that people are still at work, enhancing nature while simultaneously building themselves a better environment and economy. Residents and leaders of Clackamas County have made significant investments, both large and small, of time, money and talent that are creating new opportunities now and after the virus.

Oregon City resident Didi Dahlsrud, vice-president of the Oregon City Parks Foundation, has unleashed volunteers and friends to collect beverage containers in a big way to help support improvements in local parks. Buena Vista Park and the friends of Buena Vista are seeing grounds and building improvements. Oregon City's geologic "wonder" Waterboard Park is on its way to being "ivy free" while allowing the community and students see earth processes in action. A new "xeriscape" garden on the McLoughlin Promenade overlooks the city below with beautiful wildflowers. "We can't believe how well the poppies are doing — we don't think it's the virus, we think it's because of us," Dahlsrud said.

Oregon City's Heritage Tree Program can thank senior resident, Phyllis Gehring for her efforts to protect Oregon white oaks throughout the city. Gehring recently had arborists prune her beautiful bluff-overlooking home's Oregon White Oak — some 36 inches in diameter — and then had her son contact a youth organization "to see if they needed firewood." That organization was Rivers of Life Center, which has worked with several hundred youth over the last decade. Upon review of the "firewood," the youth exclaimed, "This is not firewood, it's a garden living on top of these oversized branches." Gehring's 80-foot-long branch was covered with licorice ferns, mosses and wildflowers. Aerie at Eagle Landing event center, overlooking Clackamas Town Center, is hosting the branch as a living 80-foot sculpture in its landscape.

In West Linn, McLean House and Park President Mike Watters continues to improve grounds at the more than 3-acre riverside location. Volunteers are in preparation activities that will follow the COVID-19 episode. Nest boxes, built in late 2019 by Boy Scout efforts for swallows, towhee and cavity nest birds such as flickers, woodpeckers and even squirrels, are preparing the way for wildlife after the virus.

In Canby, committed members of the city's Rotary Club and advocates for Future Farmers of America are paving a road for today's youth. Dr. John Zieg, longtime resident of Canby, continues to support the needs of young people with eyesight impairment, while encouraging them to learn skills and abilities through experiential learning opportunities provided by Future Farmers of America. One young man, Timothy Miller, suffering from extreme astigmatism, was assisted through Zieg's effort to have "better than the best eyesight he ever had." Zieg's efforts represent the spirit of getting past problems, while empowering youth to become better members of their community.

Canby Historical Society's "depot museum" is enthusiastically enhanced by Vice President and longtime resident Ken Daniels. "Our volunteers working with the appropriate distances continue to enhance our one-of-a-kind railroads exhibits while sprucing up the grounds, including this region's only tour-able caboose. The museum signifies the role of railroad ambassador Ben Holliday in his great respect for General Canby. A couple traveling from France touring "all the things Canby" visited us prior to the virus and had a chance to interact with many of our regions third graders. "There may be a virus, but we have a fever for working with the community and visitors," said Daniels as he describes their efforts for fall 2020 and beyond.

In Estacada, there are efforts underway by a politician and county supervisor who both know how to get things done. The unique team of Commissioner Ken Humberston and Clackamas County Parks Manager Rick Gruen will soon culminate with the early 2021 dedication of the first new sawmill and timber production facility in Oregon. Through Humberston's and Gruen's efforts, and with the support of many labor and environmental advocates working together, the first cross-laminated timber production facility will soon be in operation, utilizing small diameter trees of many species. High-value building materials for a "green revolution in building design" will be the grand result. Their efforts over the last several years have established new investment opportunities for Oregon's natural resource economy. Clackamas County and U.S. Forest Service assets will have a new outlook on careful management to feed this mill and production center. Their efforts are leading the way in a balanced environmental and healthy economy.

COURTESY PHOTO - Aidan McNiece (from left), Jerry Miller, Didi Dahlsrud and Roger Fowler-Thias work on the McLoughlin Promenade in Oregon City.What we're saying here is that, when put to the test, people will prevail. Their fever to succeed and make things happen for people, wildlife and our economy is more than alive.

Jerry Herrmann is president of Rivers of Life Center, a nonprofit organization focusing on youth training in the Willamette Valley.


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