An Amazing Week in October with Green Team! 10/26-11-1

Monday- 10/26- Deer Park Academy at Willow Creek

Deer Park Academy came to a new area of Willow creek, ready to learn more about what lives in our streams.  We conducted a macro invertebrate survey to assess the insect population at our new site, searching under rocks and in riffles.  For the most part, only worms and scuds were found.  Once we begin to re-vegetate the area,hopefully, things will change!

Once we checked out the stream we got to work removing invasive blackberry from the riparian area.  The students lopped a clear path to the creek! Thanks for all of your awesome work!

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Tuesday-10/27- Tobias Elementary at Beaverton Creek Tributary

This Tuesday at a Beaverton Creek Tributary three classes of Tobias Elementary fifth and sixth grade students played the Riparian Metaphor Game and removed harmful invasive species.  I was truly impressed with each class’s ability to recall information and concepts discussed in the previous week’s presentation.

After the game, the students each claimed a tool and worked hard to remove a pile of invasive Himalayan Blackberry which had taken over smaller trees.  They also released some young willows from the clutches of the ominous Morning Glory and the unyielding Reed Canary Grass (which has millions of seeds which are viable in the soil for up to forty years)!  The classes also did a wonderful job of being respectful and moving through the hallways quietly- it was a great day!

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Wednesday-10/28-Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek

Rachel Carson Middle School students removed invasive Himalayan Blackberry, performed water quality tests and reviewed key restoration concepts at Willow Creek this Wednesday.

Due to the students’ valiant efforts, what was once a monoculture of blackberry is quickly transforming into a healthy forest.  A group of students commented that they did not even know there was a fence behind the blackberry bushes!

The students also worked with their teachers to test for dissolved oxygen levels, Ph, and Turbidity. Then, the water quality tests were tied into the Riparian Metaphor Game as a review of the different aspects of a healthy stream. It was hypothesized that as native plants continue to grow and hold onto the soil, turbidity levels will decrease and dissolved oxygen levels will increase as shade lowers the water temperature.

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Finally, Eight graders gave a history of Willow Creek to the incoming seventh graders and explained how “once upon a time” there had only been blackberry, but now, there was a biologically diverse, natural area growing!

Amazing Job Rachel Carson Students!

-Dane Breslin

JVC Northwest 2013-2014

Americorps 2013-2014

When the stakes are high, stake ’em!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

@ Willow Creek 12/11/2012

Interested in striding through a creek in December?  How about chopping down willows in the rain?  If not, Deer Park will do it!

This week, teacher John and a student were joined by another student, new to Willow Creek, to explore creek life and create native plant stakes.  First order of business: get waders on, a challenge in itself.  Second, get IN the creek, another challenge as rain makes this thing called slippery mud. After learning a little about the how and why of macroinvertebrate  sampling, John and the two students tried their best to find signs of life.  The best time to sample is earlier in the fall and spring, but it’s good practice, right?!  We did find what may have been a New Zealand mudsnail (hopefully not!), but mostly rocks and lots of water.

Next order of business: willow and ninebark stakes.  Both willow (genus Salix) and Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) contain plant growth hormones (auxins) that allow it to root quickly from a cutting.  The group found some willows and ninebark large enough to harvest from and made about 20 stakes from them and placed them throughout riparian area of the creek, much of which is covered in reed canary grass, which these stakes will help rid of!

Thank you, Deer Park!  Proof again that there is might in small groups, too!

Deer Park: more than meets the eye!


Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ” ~ Margaret Mead 

A small but mighty group from Deer Park Academy has taken on stewarding Willow Creek.  This one-student, two-teacher team has been removing invasive blackberry and planting native plants this fall, and spending some good one-on-one time with the creek. learning about the importance of native plants and thinking about what our role as a society is in restoring our waterways.  While environmental issues sometimes seem overwheling, like nothing we do can reverse what has been done.  But that’s not true!  Every little bit we do adds up and is important.  The actions of one person matter!

This week, they planted over 20 Pacific Ninebark and Red Osier Dogwood near the creek!  Thank you for your dedication to not just SOLVE, but to Willow Creek!

Time to Celebrate: West Side Student Summit

The hard work is over and now it is time to celebrate. Students part of SOLVE’s Green Team Program on the West Side of the Willamette have been working tirelessly all year- learning about riparian ecology and doing active stream restoration. They have spent many days in pouring rain, thick mud, and weaving through thorny blackberry to improve the health of their watersheds. Now, it was time to share our findings and accomplishments with one another, our funders, scientists in the field, and the entire community.

Students arrived in clothes very different from the usual muddy rain gear we are familiar with and we began listening to Meghan (SOLVE) welcome us to the event and thank us all for our hard work. Next, Sarah Pinnock, Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, gave our keynote speech. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Marylhurst University.  She has been an educator and naturalist in the Northwest for 25 years, and has been a Wetlands Education Specialist at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve for almost 13 years. Sarah designs and delivers field science programs and traveling programs for schools and groups, summer camps, adult and family programs. She encouraged us to look for the thing we love doing and to never be afraid to pursue it. It was so great to hear her inspirational words of wisdom!

Next, students presented on topics of their choice from their year working with SOLVE. We heard about everything from how plants sequester carbon to how macroinvertebrates tell us about the quality of the water in our streams. We heard about the incredible amount of work students have done to remove blackberry, ivy, morning glory, Reed canary grass, and to plant native trees and shrubs and take care of them. As a whole, Green Teams on the West Side have planted 2,800 trees and shrubs this school year.

Then we headed out to the lobby to hear about summer internship opportunities and admire all of the incredible garbage art and writing reflections of fellow Green Team students.

Together, as Green Team students in the Portland-Metro area you all have demonstrated that the power of young, informed, and devoted students is unstoppable. Your willingness to learn about the rivers in your backyard and turn that information into positive change is absolutely unbelievable. This positive energy and eagerness to make a difference will truly make this world a better place- in honesty, it already has.

Thank you all so much for being a part of Green Team this year. Congratulations to all of you dedicated stewards of your streams!

Garbage Talk at Willow Creek

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Gina Graziano

While we’ve been told not to partake in garbage talk, we at SOLVE, went ahead at did it anyway. Only the garbage talk we engaged in was of a slightly different kind.

Deer Park Academy students talked about actual garbage, (trash on the street, not the word on the street) how it can go from a neighborhood like the one surrounding Willow Creek, into a storm drain, into the creek, and eventually into the ocean. Once in the ocean, it can meet up with its trashy counterparts in one big garbage hang out, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We are not about to sponsor that ugly and unfortunate collection of trash in the Pacific Ocean, so we decided to do something about it.

We heard about the strangely unique and incredible project Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School was working on and wanted to find more trash to add to their garbage parade float. And that we did! We took off to find bottles, cans, papers, an old love note, a hub cap, and more. Afterwards, we compiled our findings and felt pretty good about the trash free streets nearby Willow Creek.

Thanks for all of your awesome work, Deer Park! You guys rock.

Thank you, Clean Water Services, for funding this project!

Snug Boots on a Warm Day

Deer Park Academy came out to WIllow Creek today to explore the macroinvertebrates living under rocks in the stream to gain a sense of the water quality. After about 15 minutes of very hard work strapping on our very snug boots, we leapt out to WIllow Creek to explore. Immediately, we found a mussel shell, also known as a “valve.” Willow Creek is one of two sites SOLVE currently works on that has mussels! We are so happy they are there.

We found tons of snails and began asking questions about what kind they might be, native or invasive. We are consulting with a biologist with the State of Oregon to find out! We will keep you all posted.

We headed downstream and noticed a damselfly flying around! It was bright blue and beautiful. Later, we found a damselfly larvae in the stream! We also found tons of Rough Skinned Newts in the stream. Since they are in their mating season, we left them be despite our strong urges to pick them up (thanks again, guys!).

All in all, it was a successful day exploring and practicing the art of putting on and taking off boots and waders. We hope to have another adventure with macroinvertebrates in the future and record and analyze our findings.

Thank you, Clean Water Services, for funding this project!

Deer Park Returns!

After our initial discussion about watersheds, planting native trees, and doing overall stream restoration, the sight of old coffee bags was a confusing one as we loaded the SOLVE van. We carried them down to Willow Creek, still unsure as to their relevance to our day’s activities. Then we heard that all of these plants that Deer Park Academy students got in the ground in the fall was not the only step needed in the restoration process.

We learned that Reed Canary Grass, a vigorous invasive species at Willow Creek and many wetlands throughout the Pacific Northwest, can grow taller than our new, baby saplings. With the threat of Reed Canary Grass stealing sunlight and nutrients from our native trees and shrubs, we laid coffee bags next to these plants to delay and mitigate the growth of Reed Canary Grass.

After we coffee bagged many trees and shrubs, we noticed that quite a few of our new willow stakes were beginning to bud!!…and that beavers have been snacking on them. While we love having a healthy population of native beavers on site, we need to protect our native trees and shrubs while they are still small. We placed beaver cages around some plants and secured them with wooden stakes.

With our last ten minutes, we explored Willow Creek and were in awe of the snails, shade, and more.

Thank you Clean Water Services for funding this project!

There’s a lot at Stake at Willow Creek

Students from Deer Park Academy joined us today to make stakes… Willow and Douglas Spirea stakes that is, no BBQ needed.

Native Willow and Douglas Spirea are pretty unique plants in that they root really easily.  If we cut off a branch, cut it into a 1 1/2 foot long stake and mallet it into the ground a new plant will grow!  This is a stream restoration technique called bioengineering, specifically called live staking or pole cuttings.  The stakes will root very fast in the springtime and create an extensive network of roots that will stabilize the stream bank.

Luckily we have been working at Willow Creek for a few years now and have some well established Spirea and Willow for our source plant!


Using a system of live stakes or poles can create a root mat that stabilizes the soil by reinforcing and binding soil particles together. Stake establishment can improve esthetics and provide wildlife habitat. As a temporary measure, live staking performs an important function of stabilizing and modifying the soil, serving as a pioneer species until other plants become established.

Learning from our berry hard work.

Today Deer Park Academy came ready to restore Willow Creek!  Students remembered that our native plants and shrubs have dynamic root structures that will prevent erosion and that we need to remove Armenian Blackberry (formerly known as Himalayan Blackberry) to allow those natives to grow!

Students reviewed the effective methods of removing blackberry and even identified the differences between Armenian Blackberry and Trailing Blackberry.

While working, we reviewed the names of the many native trees and shrubs volunteers have planted at the site.  While reviewing these, we began wondering who eats the many berries these plants produce and how toxic they are to people.  Below is information regarding some of the berries we encountered/ might encounter together.  The moral of the story always remains that you should never eat a berry without knowing its effects on you!

Common Snowberry (S. albus) is a winter food source for birds such as quail, grouse, and pheasants, but is poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as
other alkaloids (type of chemical compounds).  Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.  Snowberry is a native shrub we have planted at Willow Creek and many of our restoration sites in the Portland- Metro Area.

File:Symphoricarpos albus 7927.jpg

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere.   All parts of the plant are poisonous.  The berries may be the greatest danger to children because they look red and delicious and have a somewhat sweet taste.  Don’t be fooled!  The consumption of two to five berries by children and ten to twenty berries by adults are probably fatal.   The root of the plant is normally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one plant to another  Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be lethal to an adult.  Atropa belladonna is also toxic to many domestic animals, causing narcosis and paralysis.   However, cattle and rabbits eat the plant seemingly without suffering harmful effect.  Never eat this plant!

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) have flowers, which appear in early summer, and can have a pleasantly strong fragrance.  The fruits (hips) of Nootka rose are apparently somewhat bitter but edible.  It is
reported that freezing and thawing will greatly mitigate the bitterness and make the hips much more palatable.  It is very important to know that only the rind should be eaten as the seeds are irritating.  Eating some huckleberry or thimbleberry might be much more pleasant!

File:Rose hips.jpg

Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is of course devastatingly invasive.  However, these berries are eatable and delicious.   Often times we pick the berries when they are ripe in the summer… then we cut the plant down and dig out its root bulb.

Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) is a native blackberry with much smaller thorns and only 3 leaflets and it too is eatable and delicious.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) is edible and shares the fruit structure of the raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle.  They are good eaten raw as well as in jam, candy, jelly and wine. They are an important food for indigenous peoples.  Traditionally, the berries were eaten with salmon or mixed with oolichan grease or salmon eggs.  Yum!

Thanks for all of the great questions, Deer Park!  You are quite a berry awesome Green Team!

Deer Park Academy meets Willow Creek

Deer Park Academy students met us out at Willow Creek for their first time today.  Students got acquainted with the site by playing a riparian metaphor game and touring around learning all about invasive plant species.  We even saw evidence of active beaver chews on some trees.  Students will be visiting Willow Creek once a week this school year, talk about commitment and stewardship!

Then students dug in to remove Armenian (aka Himalayan) that was growing up around natives planted by last year’s class from Deer Park.  Not only does this invasive species negatively impact our waterways but it damages our economy as well.

From ODA Plant Division:

Armenian blackberry is the most widespread and economically disruptive of all the noxious weeds in western Oregon. It aggressively displaces native plant species, dominates most riparian habitats, and has a significant economic impact on right-of-way maintenance, agriculture, park maintenance and forest production. It is a significant cost in riparian restoration projects and physically inhibits access to recreational activities. It reproduces at cane apices (tips) and by seeds, which are carried by birds and animals. This strategy allows it to expand enmass across a landscape or to jump great distances and create new infestations. Any control strategy can be considered short-lived unless projects are planned and funded for the long-term.

This is why we commit to sites with students for the long-term so we can really make an impact in getting rid of Armenian blackberry from Willow Creek and our other restoration sites!  Thank you Deer Park Academy!