Water no more?
Tim Kelly has lived in an apartment complex off Wilsonville's Parkway Avenue for the past four years, and in that time he's come to enjoy taking long walks through the paths that wind through undeveloped wetland that surrounds the area owned by Mentor Graphics.
He often strolls these paths to enjoy the natural setting and wildlife that inhabit the area, including a variety of birds, rabbits, deer and amphibious critters that live in some of the small ponds throughout the area.
But over the past couple of years Kelly has noticed a phenomenon that takes place in the late summer that has him worried — some of the ponds that harbor an abundance of wildlife are drying up.
"There's a little pond out there that in May through June is just beautiful. It's full of water, there's ducks swimming around and giant yellow flowers blooming," Kelly said. "Last summer the pond was drying up and I could see some activity in the water that was left."
Kelly has always had a fondness for wildlife and nature, especially when it's as accessible as that of the area surrounding Mentor Graphics near both Boeckman Road and Parkway Avenue. His concern is that the dry, hot summers Oregon has seen over the past few years is destroying the habitat that once was a thriving ecosystem.
"This year the whole thing dried up and there's no activity down there. There used to be thousands of frogs living in there and now, nothing. I just felt helpless that these animals' habitat was suffering," Kelly said.
Worried that this small green patch of pond, wild grass and wetland is feeling the extreme effects of a changing climate, Kelly decided to reach out to Mentor Graphics and the City of Wilsonville's Natural Resources Program to see what they could do to maybe allow more water to spill from ponds further upstream to help out the ecosystem that holds the walking paths just to the south.
Mentor Graphics hosted a meeting with representatives of the City's Natural Resources Program to discuss Kelly's concerns, but according to Natural Resources Program Manager Kerry Rappold, there are two factors at play here. The first is that the frog species most likely to inhabit a pond like the one on Mentor Graphics property year-round is actually an invasive species. The second is that Mentor Graphics hasn't changed its outflow upstream of this small pond, and there isn't much that the City or Mentor Graphics could do to try and replenish the pond artificially.
"The problem is that the native species of frogs (in this area) are the Pacific tree frog and Northern red-legged frog. They only use ponds like that for their breeding season and move to an upland habitat the remainder of the year," Rappold explained. "The bullfrogs are not native, and if we had the potential we'd probably try to control those more. They will use ponds throughout the year, so it's dependent on what frog species we're talking about and we completely aren't certain in that area."
He added that it was likely when water got too low in small ponds like the one at Mentor Graphics, the invasive bullfrogs likely migrated to larger aquatic areas like the Coffee Lake Wetlands, where there is a well-established population.
Both the Pacific tree frog and northern red-legged frog's reproductive season begins around mid-fall to early winter, meaning if those are the species which are present, they would return to a pond like the one on Mentor Graphics property once fall rains begin to replenish it.
Rappold said he appreciates when Wilsonville residents are passionate about their natural surroundings and the wildlife that inhabits the area, but this situation is just an unfortunate symptom of a changing climate.
"With these extended periods of hot, dry weather that we might not have had in the past, it's going to bring changes to that area," Rappold said. "It wouldn't be a good path to go down to artificially provide water down there where it doesn't exist. It's going to be the way things function in some places because of the changes we're seeing."