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It happens annually: Volunteers gather to pull trash and debris out of Johnson Creek. THE BEE was there again this year

DAVID F. ASHTON - These Johnson Creek Watershed Council volunteers in the 2021 Johnson Creek Clean-up - here pulling a shopping cart out of the stream - were members of the Cleveland High School Soccer Team. It was quite an achievement: Numerous volunteers associated with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council spent the morning of August 21 participating in the 2021 Johnson Creek Clean-up, and they cleaned up over seven miles of the waterway at 14 sites, pulling tons of trash and rubbish out of the water.

From Sellwood out to Gresham, volunteers checked in at the site they'd chosen, and awaited a briefing from their group's "Team Leader" before getting started.

DAVID F. ASHTON - These volunteers in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood were preparing to hike into Errol Heights Park to begin their morning of service. At Errol Heights Park, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council's Executive Director Daniel Newberry was waiting for the many volunteers to gather that morning.

"In 2020, our August cleanup was limited to on-land sites only, due to COVID-19 restrictions – because it's difficult for people to socially distance when they need to work in close quarters, knee deep, in the stream," Newberry recalled.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Volunteers were surprised to see that a City of Portland Bureau of Transportation sign, and its steel post, had been pitched into the creek - they set to work retrieving it. "Even so, last year we collected about 2.2 tons of trash," he added, as he started organizing the group.

After the day's work was over, Newberry reported back to us. "This year, 213 volunteers showed up, for a hybrid in-water and in-park cleanup," Newberry told THE BEE. "This year, volunteers scraped, tugged, pulled and removed 6.4 tons of debris from the creek; we haven't had this much trash removed since 2012!"

"This means that a cumulative total of 65 tons refuse removed form the creek since we started this project in 2007," Newberry remarked.

Another difference this year from the pre-pandemic days, Newberry observed, is that they'd hold a group barbeque at noon for volunteers. "We've adapted by having pre-wrapped food delivered to our hard-working volunteers at each of our cleanup sites instead."

New and different rubbish found

For a variety of reasons, the amount of trash in the environment, and in the Johnson Creek watershed, has increased in the past year. "This was pointed out by many people, who commented they were glad to be part of the solution," Newberry said.

"While beautifying the creek is esthetically important, when a lot of the trash degrades and breaks down, it's bad for the water quality," Newberry pointed out.

"Especially the trash containing elements, such as copper and lead, can leach toxins into the water and destroy a salmon's sense of smell, and thus prevent them from finding and returning to their native stream."

As he requested, we're happy to list the cleanup's funders this year: Clackamas Water Environment Services, Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services, Advantis Credit Union, and the Mintkeski Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.

"We've got a great community, and they really turned out this year," commended Newberry.

The Johnson Creek Watershed Council is continuing to plan volunteer events. Find out more by visiting their website – www.jcwc.org


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