by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Many Westmoreland and Sellwood residents are already enjoying the boardwalk that now runs through the north end of Westmoreland Park. The project undertaken back in the summer of 2013 to turn Westmoreland Park into a natural wetland area is completed. Starting in late June, workers started taking down the temporary steel fencing, and began opening the park in phases.

Through most of July, neighbors began walking through and exploring the “all new” Westmoreland Park, including its paved and bark chip paths, curving boardwalk, and the new “overlook” walk.

This joint project, undertaken by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, by Portland Parks & Recreation, and by the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, took quite a while to finish, but agency representatives say they’re pleased with the result.

“It has taken a little bit longer than expected, because the selected areas were successfully turned into wetlands which were flooded by the springtime heavy rains,” said US Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Specialist Michel Helms. “But it is doing what we expected it to do.”

Helms told THE BEE, “The project turned out beautifully. The concrete duck pond is gone, and the park has been restored to its original wetland environment, more suitable for more native fish and other species to be in the area.

“I hope people in the area are as happy with finished project as we are,” Helms said.

Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Environmental Program Coordinator Ronda Fast was also at the park looking over the project, during our visit.

“It is a dynamic site,” Fast pointed out. “We’re keeping a close watch, as things settle in. We're learning how the site behaves in response to rainfall – we want to see if the wetland acts like the ‘sponge’ it was designed to be.”

While, overall, the habitat is looking up, Fast noted that some of the new plants are not “growing and thriving. We will pull some of those out and replace them this fall. But the creek is staying in the channel!”

Strolling along the boardwalk Fast saw that some of the wetland area appeared to be a bit waterlogged. “We’re still ‘dialing in’ the irrigation schedule; having the watering properly set will help.”

Because they don’t begin fish and mussel monitoring until fall, when salmon and other fish return to the creek, Fast said they haven’t yet been doing “counts” of water creatures.

“We’ve been able to keep the native ducks,” Fast observed. “And, we’re still discouraging domestic ducks from the site.

“Please, don’t feed the ducks,” Fast requested of BEE readers. “And, don’t ‘set free’ any pet ducks – or any other animals – in our parks.” A BEE reader with a dog recently called us to protest the use of chicken wire on the wooden deck of the elevated boardwalk in the park. We explained that this was intended to keep people from falling – when the wooden deck gets wet, it is slippery. This is not a particularly dog-friendly surface, however, so we will discuss the matter with park officials to see if another sort of non-slip surface might work.

The agencies are planning an official reopening with what they’re calling a “Salmon Homecoming Festival” to Crystal Springs Creek on Saturday, October 18, 11 am until 4 pm. Look for more information about this in the September issue of THE BEE.

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