Conservation groups and local goverments 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 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.
Crystal Springs, $311,000: Crystal Springs is realizing its potential as an excellent salmon stream, thanks to the restoration of floodplain and riparian habitat and the removal of a culvert that blocked juvenile fish passage.
Rock Creek confluence, $209,000: When Happy Valley and Damascus grow, Rock Creek will be ready. Partners are improving stream complexity, reducing erosion, enhancing water quality and restoring native plantings where the creek meets the Clackamas River. The work is already making a difference in water quality, according to monitoring done by Clackamas High School.
Spring Park Natural Area, $178,000: Partners are rerouting a trail out of a wetland, installing boardwalks and an overlook, restoring native planting and adding large, woody debris at the seven-acre Spring Park Natural Area nestled along the Willamette River in Milwaukie.
Mount Scott Creek, $150,000: With restored banks and riparian areas at North Clackamas Park, Mount Scott Creek is healthier than it has been in a long time. New overlooks reduce heavy foot traffic that trampled native plants and eroded creek banks.
Wapato Marsh, $129,000: Hillsboro’s Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve serves as a destination for hiking and bird-watching – and a living example of restoration. Partners are transforming 120 acres of degraded wetlands at Wapato Marsh into a healthy ecosystem.
Stone Bridge Fish Passage on Nettle Creek, $47,000: At Tryon Creek State Park, erosion threatened a stone bridge across Nettle Creek – and, along with it, a regional trail connection. The Tryon Creek Watershed Council is replacing the bridge, stabilizing stream banks and enhancing habitat.
Beaver Creek, $579,500: Federally listed salmon, steelhead trout and other native fish species will find it easier to navigate through Beaver Creek once improvements are made to three culverts that significantly block fish passage. The project will allow fish to reach the upper basin of Beaver Creek, where agencies have already been working with property owners to restore stream habitat.
Case study: 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 people and salmon will have reason to come and stay a while.
Renderings of 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.
The city envisions a walkable park with benches, event space and picnic areas for the 8.5-acre site at the confluence of the Willamette River and Johnson Creek next to McLoughlin Boulevard and the Trolley Trail. A four-phase design plan stresses recreation, the environment and education. 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 a gathering 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 matching funds from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, 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 in order to improve fish counts in the area.
The first phase of construction, completed in 2012, also included a concrete path to an overlook at the mouth of Johnson Creek. The overlook is partially shaded by a 200-year-old Oregon white oak tree.
JoAnn Herrigel, Milwaukie’s former parks and sustainability director who spent years working on the park, said the project was her biggest task at the city. Like many local residents, she knew the park’s redesign would be instrumental in reviving the waterfront and reflecting 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.
It’s a tall order for a site that started as a blank slate – or empty parking lot. But Herrigel is optimistic, promising “We’re going to turn passive recreation into active recreation.”