Johnson Creek 'Watershed Wide Event' flourishes in pandemic
For nearly five decades now, local residents have gathered each year to help restore, repair, and clean up Johnson Creek, in cooperation with the nonprofit Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC), which is now based in Woodstock.
On Saturday, March 13, scores of volunteers headed out to participate in the annual "Watershed Wide Event" – spending the Saturday morning working with others, socially-distanced, of course.
"Neither tough weather conditions nor COVID have been able to stop 23 consecutive years of the JCWC's 'Watershed Wide Event' held at this time every year," beamed the organization's Executive Director, Daniel Newberry.
"Our volunteers love this opportunity each March to plant native trees and shrubs and remove invasive species, all with the goal of improving the streamside habitat of Johnson Creek and its tributaries," Newberry told THE BEE. "The trees we plant will, one day, provide shade to help keep the streams cool enough for salmon."
This year's cleanup party was a bit different than most of those past, due to COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions; there was a cap of only ten volunteers at each site, with face coverings required at all times, and without the usual large group festivities at the kickoff or conclusion.
"Instead of holding a large post-event lunch, for example, this year we had burritos made and delivered by 'Tortilleria y Tienda de León' and 'Fernando's Alegria' at the Portland Mercado," Newberry pointed out. "And, each site also featured hand-washing stations –which is a change we may continue with indefinitely."
This year, about 175 people turned out at 11 different sites, from Milwaukie to Damascus, and added 4,500 new plants to the watershed, Newberry reported. "About 40% of the people and plants were at our four Southeast Portland locations – which is less than half the number of volunteers in a typical year."
In Inner Southeast Portland, two groups of volunteers worked in different locations at Ardenwald's Tiedeman-Johnson Park, where they installed some 300 trees, flowers, and shrubs in an section they call "the Woodlands".
One could hear Johnson Creek burbling and rushing in the background, swollen with water from recent rains, as site leader Marianne Colgrove – the coordinator from "Friends of Tideman-Johnson" – instructed volunteers about the plants, and how to install them properly. Then, the group fanned out, each person carrying containers, and began putting in the new plants.
Newberry wanted to acknowledge their partners in the cleanup: The Mintkeski Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Clackamas County's Water Environment Services, Portland General Electric, East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, Portland Parks & Recreation, the City of Gresham, Friends of Tideman Johnson, Leach Garden Friends, Friends of Trees, Americold, and the City of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services.
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