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So how do you clean up a creek during a coronavirus pandemic? You do most of the work out of the water

DAVID F. ASHTON - As part of this years Johnson Creek Clean-up - here at Errol Heights Park, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood - a group of volunteers waved, before they headed up the trail and got to work. August 22nd was a pleasant Saturday morning for people to get out into nature; and what those people were doing was helping clean up the areas around Johnson Creek at numerous Southeast sites – from near the confluence with the Willamette River in Sellwood, on out to Gresham.

It took place due to some "out of the box" thinking by the staff of the Woodstock-based Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) – accomplished while strictly following State and Multnomah County COVID-19 coronavirus guidelines.

"This, our 30th annual 'Creek Clean-up', has typically been done with volunteers working together in the water in late summer, because the creek levels are lower then – and it's within the State 'in-water work window', where we can be in Johnson Creek pulling out trash and debris, while not endangering fish eggs and fish nests," explained JCWC Creek Clean-up Co-coordinator Melanie Klym.

"But in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of putting teams into the water where it might have been challenging to keep them six feet apart – especially when removing larger trash items from the Creek, such as lounge chairs and mattresses – we made the decision to do a land-based clean-up, working in the parks that border the creek, and along the Springwater Corridor," Klym told THE BEE.

Thus, the year's cleanup was strictly limited, with teams of ten people or less at each of the sites. "While we'll all be helping, by cleaning areas around the creek we're all a little sad we're not doing the kickoff, and the big volunteers' lunch, this year; so, we're missing the community celebration aspect of the day," Klym sadly pointed out.

In addition to volunteers cleaning up the banks of Johnson Creek, others were helping out by driving from site to site, retrieving bags of collected trash for disposal.

"It's still helping the creek, because picking up trash along side the banks keeps it from eventually getting into the water, and therefore reduces hazards for wildlife – things that fly, walk, and swim – beyond just the fish," Klum remarked. "And we also pick up discarded paint, batteries, and chemicals, which, when it rains, might wash into the creek and degrade the water quality."

It certainly was a challenge, organizing this year's clean-up, acknowledged its co-coordinator, and JCWC Volunteer Program Manager, Courtney Beckel. "It seems like every few days, we've run into a new logistical hurdle – in order to make sure that we're following all the regulations by all the governmental bodies, and providing the necessary personal protection equipment."

Even so, the cleanup was a success. Two trash dropboxes and two metal recycling boxes – containing a total of 2.17 tons of refuse – were collected, and everyone remained safe.

For more information about the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and to learn about their volunteer opportunities, go online – www.jcwc.org


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