Nature in Neighborhoods grants: restoration
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
By improving habitat for fish and animals, restoration projects create better places for people, too.
Conservation groups have no shortage of restoration projects on their wish lists. The challenge: finding funding to make them happen.
With a boost from Nature in Neighborhoods grants, restoration efforts are improving the health of floodplains and watershed basins across the region – from the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve to Mount Scott Creek and several places in between. Although these projects improve habitat for fish, amphibians and other animals, many are also designed to improve the park experience for human visitors.
Successful restoration projects are selected for their ecological value. Their benefits will unfold over many years, as native plants make a comeback, salmon return to streams and birds rediscover healthy wetlands.
In Milwaukie, Metro helps a riverfront renewal come to life
Reinvigorating Milwaukie's waterfront has been a public priority for nearly half a century. And with help from Metro, both residents and salmon will have reason to come and stay a while.
Klein Point overlook and habitat enhancement, $255,000
Recipients: Johnson Creek Watershed Council, City of Milwaukie
Partners: Willamette Riverkeeper, Milwaukie Rotary, Oregon Dental Services, Gary and Sharon Klein, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, PGE Salmon Fund, FishAmerica Foundation, City of Portland
Renderings of manmade water features, a floating dock and paved trails offer a promising future for Milwaukie Riverfront Park – long home to parking lots, a boat ramp and a smattering of trees.
"Right now you can drive to the riverfront, stay in your car and look at the river. Or you can launch a boat," said JoAnn Herrigel, community services director for the city. "There's just not much to do."
The city envisions a walkable park with benches, event space and picnic areas for the 8.5 acres sandwiched between the Willamette River and McLoughlin Boulevard. A four-phase design plan stresses recreation, the environment and education.
Officials hope that completing phase one will feed interest – and funds – into the project. Thanks in part to a $225,000 grant from Metro's Nature in Neighborhoods program, progress is under way.
The City of Milwaukie and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council saw the riverfront as an opportunity to collaborate. Both want to create recreation space while being sensitive to the location, bordered to the north by Johnson Creek and to the south by Kellogg Creek. The streams are hubs of activity for salmon seeking refuge from the warmer Willamette River.
Robin Jenkinson, restoration coordinator for the watershed council, uses the site for school field trips to talk about water conditions and the species that call Johnson and Kellogg creeks home.
"As an urban watershed council, at least half of our projects include an education and outreach component,” she said. “It’s an important place for people to connect and learn about our streams."
Using funds from Metro, along with various matches, the groups oversaw the meticulous construction of log jams at the mouth of Johnson Creek, as well as a stone riffle over an exposed sewer pipe. Crews secured 150 massive logs to provide fish habitat, and the riffle eases their migration upstream.
Jenkinson said the features have been on the organization’s wish list for years and may improve fish counts, which are increasing but still very low. Last year, three Coho salmon were found about 15 miles upstream in Johnson Creek – the farthest they've been spotted in more than a decade.
"And this past Saturday, one of our volunteer survey teams found Coho in Gresham and Crystal Springs, so we know that there are salmon passing through our streams,” Jenkinson added.
The final piece of phase one is a curving concrete path that ends in an overlook of the mouth of Johnson Creek. It will be partially shaded by a 200-year-old Oregon white oak tree, and interpretive signs will explain the vital role Johnson Creek plays for salmon.
Herrigel called the riverfront project her biggest task at the city. She is one of many in the community counting on the redesign to revive the waterfront and reflect the city’s vibrancy.
"What we're creating is a recreational endpoint so that people can walk, bike or drive. Once they're here, they can actually interact with music and performances, enjoy the play area and picnic grounds, sit on benches and read interpretive signs," she said.
Restoring the landscape is good for fish, critters – and people. Metro’s science and stewardship team works with partners to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. You can help oust invasive plants and replace them with native trees and shrubs.
Experience Metro natural areas through photography, video and writing on an interactive storytelling map. From Forest Grove to Troutdale and North Portland to Wilsonville, the region is filled with tales of the land.
Go behind the scenes at three places protected by Metro's Natural Areas Program, and learn how voters have made a difference for the region’s water quality, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.