Muddy business

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member Nicole Poletto

Rex Putnam High School @ Boardman Wetlands on 11.9.12

It was the last class of the day on a Friday afternoon.  What better way to get the weekend started than with some planting with SOLVE?  Terry from Oak Lodge Sanitary District was also there to support our planting efforts on the beautiful sunny day.

A few students came running to Boardman, eager to get started on the afternoon’s activities.  They were shocked to see a new route available to get to their restoration area. A wall of Blackberry that had once blocked their path had been destroyed!  After a lesson on learning Plant Identification, the students trampled over the Blackberry brambles to begin planting in the wetland.

Soon, Douglas Spirea, Black Twinberry, and Pacific Willow were popping up throughout the sea of Reed Canary Grass.  Douglas Spirea, referred to as Cotton candy by Rex Putnam students, is a native that prefers the wetland environment.  That is because in full bloom, Spirea has a cotton candy-like flower that grows from its terminal bud.

Douglas Spirea, “Cotton candy” plant           Photo:

At the end of the day, the mud that coated our gloves (and some faces) was well worth it.  We planted 28 plants that would grow tall and shade out our Reed Canary grass enemy.  Awesome job Rex Putnam!

Rex Putnam vs. Reed Canary grass

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member Nicole Poletto

On a beautiful, sunny Monday afternoon Rex Putnam High School students came out to Boardman creek for the first time.  This is the second year of restoration for Boardman wetlands, a site overrun by Reed Canary grass.  Reed Canary grass is very difficult to get rid of due to its root structure and seeds that remain viable for 40 years.  Thus the only way to get rid of Reed Canary is with shade!  Yet, the native plants planted last year were being buried by the dying grass as it began to lay down.

Rex Putnam, armed with grass shears, came to the rescue.  They cut down and ripped out the grass in a radius around the natives.  As more and more grass was cut, more natives were found buried underneath the grass.   Despite the heat, about 100 natives were saved in less than an hour.  Awesome job Rex Putnam!

Rex Putnam Visits Boardman One Last Time

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Charlie

Last week was this year’s Rex Putnam Green Team’s last visit out to their site at Boardman Creek. During this final time out at the creek, students took a much deserved break from all of the hard work they have done in order to take some time to observe the results of their labors out at the Boardman Wetlands.

When we first arrived at the site, it was nearly indistinguishable from the last time we were there only a few weeks ago. It seems that this warmer weather and longer days have really flipped the “grow!” switch in the blackberry and reed canary grass. The path we had cut through the blackberry on the margin of the site back in October is starting to grow closed, and the reed canary grass among the plants we had planted is already 6-7 feet high and flowering! It suddenly became obvious to everyone why we had put so much effort into placing down coffee bags around the plants to prevent the grass from growing right next to our young natives and shading them out. Despite all of the nasty invasives that are thriving at the site, also thriving are the willow stakes we planted in the ground last winter. Nearly every stake is leafing out and well on its way to becoming a large tree. We all look forward to the day when these trees will shade the banks of Boardman Creek, keeping the reed canary grass at bay with its only enemy: shade.

After touring the site, we then walked around the neighborhood surrounding Rex Putnam school and Boardman Creek and distributed newsletters of articles, poems, and art students had created about their work at Boardman Creek this year. Residents were interested to hear about what all of these high school students were doing in their backyards and were very excited about the positive impact this green team has been doing in their community.

This year’s Rex Putnam High School SOLVE Green Team has a lot to be proud of, they did a tremendous amount of work at this very impacted site. However if this final visit taught us one thing, it’s that there is still much work to be done. We at SOLVhave had a wonderful first year working with Rex Putnam at Boardman Creek and we look forward to working again with you next year!

Thank you Oak Lodge Sanitary District for funding this project!

East side green teamers reflect on their year of service-learning…

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Written by Meghan Ballard, Green Team Program Coordinator.

Students from SOLVE’s Green Teams on the East Side of the Willamette River joined together last week to share their experiences and the lessons they have learned over the past year.  Hosted at Clackamas High School, students were able to hear about each others’ research and time spent at the creek.

Matthew Collins, Education Director for Friends of Tryon Creek, joined us to talk about the importance of volunteering and how it has personally impacted his life and career choices.    Check out all of the different ways you can volunteer with Friends of Tryon Creek!

Ashley, Lindsey, Joel and Tanner from Gladstone High School started off the student presentations with information about invasive species at Rinearson Creek.  Sam and Katie joined us to represent West Linn High School and their work with stream bioengineering at Abernethy Creek. Portland Lutheran School students Lydia, Rachel, Abi and Arianna
shared their experience with the fun, slimy and smelly salmon toss on the Sandy River. Alexis, Ben, Jesse and Ryan presented on behalf of Clackamas High School and they shared some very interesting findings about their macroinvertebrate surveys of Mount Scott and Rock Creeks.  Fernanda, Kennedy, and Jake from Rex Putnam High School put together a documentary of their work this year at Boardman Wetlands. And students from the Sabin-Schellenberg Technical School gave their perspective on several tools they’ve used this year on invasive removal at Rock Creek.

Charlie(SOLVE) also introduced something new this year, the Clackamas Student Stewardship Award!  This award recognizes a special student or group of students who go above and beyond our usual tasks and contribute something extraordinary to SOLVE and the overall work we do as a Green Team program.  This year’s award was given to three outstanding art students, Chanel Karbonski, Kristy Younglove, & Ashley-Jean Gonzalez who have done AMAZING work transforming litter pulled out of Phillips Creek into beautiful and educational artwork, including the Tom McCall portrait below!

THANK YOU to all of the stellar students and teachers we have had the honor and privilege of working with this year!  It has been one of our most successful Green Team years ever and we are so glad you all were able to share it with us.

Thank you to the following sponsors, partners and friends who attended the summit and for supporting our work:

Amazing litter art!

Trash Talk at Boardman Wetland

All the litter we found in a short stretch of Boardman Creek

Two classes of students from Rex Putnam joined us at Boardman Creek this week.  First students got a lesson from Gina and Charlie(SOLVE) on litter in our environment and how it can travel to the Pacific Ocean.  Litter that is dropped nearby or blown out of overflowing trash cans washes into Boardman Creek during rain events and can be a real problem for wildlife that call the creek home.


As we all know, every discarded item, no matter the size, must end up somewhere. Often litter ends up in waterways. With assistance from ditches, sewer systems, rivers and other bodies of water, litter can easily traverse across thousands of miles to wash up on your local beach.

Here are the top five litter items found and how they harm wildlife:

#5 Plastic beverage bottles (8.6 percent)
Plastic is lightweight and durable, making it an ideal choice for manufacturing. Put it in water and decomposition time slows down, meaning plastic will be around for a long time — about 450  years — potentially harming marine wildlife. BPA, a chemical compound in plastic bottles that’s linked to health problems in humans, can cause reproductive disorders in shellfish and other species.

#4 Caps and lids (8.9 percent)
Caps and lids are not too large for a number of wildlife species to eat. Birds, like albatross in Hawaii, mistake them for eggs or squid and take them back to the nest.

#3 Food wrappers/containers (9.2 percent)
Both paper and plastic are used in food packaging. They can be mistaken for food and any traces of food on the packaging will attract hungry animals. Choking or blockages can lead to death.

#2 Plastic Bags (11 percent)
Plastic bags may not seem appetizing, but a sea turtle can mistake them for jellyfish. Blockages can occur, causing the turtle to starve to death if they don’t choke first. Other possibilities include animals becoming trapped inside a bag and suffocating or drowning to death.

#1 Cigarettes/cigarette filters (21 percent)
As with land litter, cigarettes/cigarette filters are the most prevalent litter type in water. Not only does wildlife mistakenly eat discarded cigarette parts, they may also be fed to offspring. No nutritional value is obtained from cigarettes, yet wildlife feel full after ingestion. Cigarettes are also highly toxic — as Chris Santiago wrote on the Environment blog, the chemicals in one filtered cigarette butt can kill half the fish living in a one liter container of water.

Students found many of the above trash items and in addition pulled out three tires, many parts to a car engine, a cd player and signs.  Students won’t stop there!  Instead of putting all this trash into a landfill, students are going to clean it up a bit and create educational art pieces out of all they found.  In addition, students helped finish up mulching our newly planted natives to protect them from the hot summer months!

Thank you Rex Putnam!

Thank you Oak Lodge Sanitary District for funding this project!

Rex Putnam 1, Reed Canary Grass 0

Two classrooms of students from Rex Putnam High a joined us once again this week at Boardman Wetland.  Katie and Terry from the Oak Lodge Sanitary District (funder of the Boardman Wetland Enhancement project) joined us to help out as well!  Our natives which were planted a few weeks ago were showing signs of spring with new buds!  Also, the start of spring marks the start of Reed Canary Grass season – we saw many new green sprouts of the invasive grass at the wetland.

The grass will quickly outcompete our baby natives if we didn’t take action!

From Washington State Department of Ecology:

Reed canarygrass forms dense, highly productive single species stands that pose a major threat to many wetland ecosystems. The species grows so vigorously that it is able to inhibit and eliminate competing species. In addition, areas that have existed as reed canarygrass monocultures for extended periods may have seed banks that are devoid of native species. Unlike native wetland vegetation, dense stands of reed canarygrass have little value for wildlife. Few species eat the grass, and the stems grow too densely to provide adequate cover for small mammals and waterfowl.

Students worked in pairs to stake coffee bags donated to SOLVE by Coffee Bean International, around native plants to impede weed growth; the burlap sacks will provide an area around the plant that is relatively Reed Canary grass free and thus, allows the plant to grow without its usual competitor.  The bags and the stakes that we use will biodegrade in a few years, so nothing is left behind.

Students showed great teamwork while hauling 5 gallon buckets of mulch over a fence to further protect the plants.  The mulch is made up of doug fir and will help to impede weed growth, add nutrients into the soil, and help keep the roots moist during dry summer month.  The students worked hard to coffee bag and mulch more than 150 plants.

Thank you students for all your hard work!

Thank you to Oak Lodge Sanitary District for funding this project and getting muddy with us!

Frogs, sunshine and trees!

Enthusiastic students from Rex Putnam High School joined us once again at Boardman Wetlands this week.  The wetlands now have 180 brand new native trees and shrubs that will grow to shade the stream, enhance wildlife habitat, filter polluted runoff from nearby streets and their roots will stabilize the stream banks.  That’s a ton of great environmental impact for 3 hours of work!

Students learned to start to identify some of our native trees and shrubs during the most difficult of plant ID seasons – Winter Twig ID!  We planted Red Osier Dogwood, Scouler Willow, Black Twinberry, Douglas Spirea, and Nootka Rose – among many others.

We were joined at the wetlands by several Pacific Chorus Frogs.  This is the peak of their breeding season, in fact if you live near ponded water you’ve probably been hearing their breeding calls, visit here to hear a sample of their calls.


The Pacific Chorus Frog can be distinguished from all other frogs within its geographic range by two characteristics: 1) the presence of toepads, and 2) a dark stripe that extends from just before the nostril, through the eye, and past the tympanum (ear). No other frogs found within the geographic range of the Pacific Chorus Frog have both of these characters.

Thank you Rex Putnam High!

Rex Putnam: Stakeing Care of Business

Rex Putnam High School Green Team came out this week to one of our newest sites, Boardman Creek Wetland. Their first visit to this site was spent mostly hacking away at the thick border of blackberry brambles so that students could actually get to the wetlands and to see the creek. And what was on the other side of this wall of invasives, even more invasives, a desert of reed canary grass! This time around, students spent more time combating these invasives. While some were finishing up the job with the blackberry, digging up their roots, others got down to business on the reed canary grass. Since this robust grass cannot be dug up like blackberry, nor mowed down effectively, the only way to combat it is with shade. Therefore another group of students spent their time creating stakes out of living willow and dogwood branches, staking them in the ground, and sending them the good vibes to encourage them to quickly grow into new trees that will be able to outshade the reed canary grass (and protect poor Boardman Creek from heating up too much in the sun).

While digging up a particularly nasty blackberry heart, some students came across a fascinating amphibian in the leaf litter. The students were afraid that they had accidentally killed the poor herptile as it was not moving, but after putting it on the ground, it scurried away. Upon further research, we believe that we had an encounter with a Dunn’s Salamander. These shy creatures are not often found in such disturbed areas so finding one at this site is really exciting and a rare find! We also read that they tend to play dead as a defense mechanism so it was a relief to find that its behavior while we were handling it was natural. Go here for more information on the Dunn’s Salamanders.

SOLV and Boardman creek appreciates all of the work Rex Putnam has done so far, and the fact that we are preserving and improving this habitat for our slippery amphibious friends is worth taking newt of.

A Green Team shout out!

Clackamas High School Green Team!

Green Team staff love working with students and teachers from the North Clackamas School District… here’s a nice story about recent outings!

From the North Clackamas School District Newsletter:


For decades, SOLV has been on a mission to keep Oregon green.  Now the non-profit is partnering with three North Clackamas Schools to expand that mission into environmental learning.  In partnership with science teachers at Clackamas High, Rex Putnam High, and Rock Creek Middle School, SOLV is teaching a new generation ways to protect the environment through science class.  Here are some of the projects students have tackled:

Clackamas High:
Presenters from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Clackamas River Basin Council told students about the nutrients dead salmon deposit into the forest and stream as they decay.  Students then dissected the dead salmon to learn about fish anatomy and physiology.  The lesson ended with students trying the Japanese art of Gyotaku, a traditional form of fish printing used to record the size and type of fish.  Students also got creative with writing reflections from the salmon’s point of view.

Rex Putnam High:
Rex Putnam ‘s environmental science classes worked with SOLV to restore Boardman Creek in Milwaukie.  After removing an invasive patch of Armenian blackberry brambles, students got a lesson on native plants and invasive plants, and how the riparian zone can be improved by encouraging biodiversity.

Rock Creek Middle School:
SOLV brought a laboratory into the classroom, helping students with a macroenvertibrate survey, which provides an indicator of stream health and pollution.  Students learned a testing method called the pollution tolerance index to determine how clean a waterway is by the aquatic bugs and organisms they find.  Students tested the water from Rock Creek, which their school is named after.

And Now a Word from our Spawnsors…

Do the salmon in your streams have difficulties swimming as far upstream as they did historically?  Is your watershed degraded or in need of nutrients?  Do you enjoy a spawntaneous game of toss?

Yes!?  Then have we got a story for you!!

Students from West Linn High School, Gladstone High School, and Rex Putnam High School met up with a few Jesuit Volunteers, Representatives from the Clackamas River Basin Council, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, and SOLV to toss dead salmon and all of their brilliant nutrients into the Upper Clackamas River.  These students care so deeply about restoring riparian corridors that they opted to wake up early on a Saturday morning, slip into a trash bag dress, and carry fish guts and blood to a part of the Clackamas in need of nutrients.  They carried several salmon from the truck to the river on strings and sticks, making our work as efishent as possible.  Students deposited these salmon to their final resting places in no time!

You can have your fun at restoring a creek near you too, even if throwing dead salmon carcases is not your cup of roe.  Just simply pick up trash near your stream, learn about the plants growing there, and sign up for community volunteer events to be a salmbassador of your stream.  Its easy, fun, and always rewarding.