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Some local man with a tractor-mower and too much time on his hands is causing damage at Oaks Bottom

RITA A. LEONARD - This is Oaks Bottoms South Meadow, the place where the prohibited mowing took place, and not for the first time.  Oaks Amusement Park is seen in the background, with a section of Downtown Portland in the far distance. Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is administered by Portland Parks, and it is an important part of the inner city's native habitat. It is illegal to vandalize it, but a man has done so with a mower – and he's reported to have done it before.

Portland Parks & Recreation spokesman Mark Ross told THE BEE, "On Tuesday afternoon, April 27, a person intentionally used his own tractor to mow a habitat meadow at the Refuge. This was done without PP&R permission, and despite staff's efforts to stop it [while in progress]. "PP&R Park Rangers excluded the person from the Refuge for 60 days. [In the past two years the Refuge has become] a mosaic of different types of habitat that cater to a wide diversity of plants and animals. [It is also] designated as an 'important bird area' by the Audubon Society."

This was not the first time for such vandalism, and apparently by the same person. The open field is seen from the Sellwood Boulevard bluff (it's referred to as the "South Meadow"), and we learn it has been mowed several times previously, without any permit or permission, by a local man on a tractor.

The area in question can be seen from the north end of the Sellwood Park parking lot, with Oaks Amusement Park in the background. Although the man possibly has the idea that he is somehow doing a favor to the neighborhood, he actually knows better – because he had twice previously been warned not to do this, both by Park Bureau personnel, and by the Portland Park Rangers.

Laura Guderyahn, PP&R Ecologist for the Refuge, reported, "After first speaking with this person back in January, and learning of his plans to mow the meadow, I had eco-blocks [giant cement blocks] installed at the most likely place he was getting into the meadow. Apparently, he found another way. If anyone knows how he is getting in, please let me know by e-mail – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – and I can have that area blocked as well.

"I was notified April 27, by one of the founders of the Friends of Oaks Bottom, that the man and his tractor were again mowing at the site." According to birdwatcher Marianne Nelson, there exists a video of Guderyahn confronting the man, when he initially refused to cooperate. When PP&R Park Rangers arrived, they took down his name, and warned him off the area for two months. They told him that if he tried mowing there again, witnesses could call 9-1-1, and Portland Police officers would come and cite him for criminal damages.

Nelson continues, "This is really sad for many reasons. Many birds are nesting in the meadow now, and this disturbs and possibly kills them. But it is not just the animals: There are native Camas flowers blooming in there now; and Parks had just spent money and time planting 6,500 wildflowers there to provide resources for pollinators and birds that frequent the meadow."

Nelson says, "We need to spread the word that this is a Wildlife Refuge, not a recreation area for people and dogs. We are visitors in a unique natural setting. . . We owe it to the nesting birds, minks, otters, beavers, and other wildlife to respect their homes. "Over half the meadow was mowed [before the man was stopped this time], including the areas with high concentrations of native Camas. I will be working diligently to restore the meadow, and would appreciate as many eyes on the site as possible, teaching folks why dogs on leash and staying on the trail is so important there."

Meantime, Guderyahn advised, "I am working with Portland Police, PP&R Rangers, and my managers to pursue whatever action I can against this person. I appreciate [local residents'] concern, and encourage you to directly contact Commissioner Carmen Rubio and Mayor Wheeler to make sure they know what happened, and that it is unacceptable."

PP&R spokesman Mark Ross told THE BEE that he, too, would like to hear of any more problems in Oaks Bottom. Curiously, despite so many people apparently knowing just who this offender is, THE BEE so far has been unable to obtain his name for publication from any of those involved.

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