Clackamas Middle College Saves Native Plants

CMS @ Phillips Creek October 7th

Written by Becca, SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer

Clackamas Middle College made a trip out to Philips Creek for the first time this school year on Monday.  Students brought the sun for a mostly beautiful day of removing invasive blackberry.  Despite constant efforts to dig up blackberry last year it keep creeping back close to the native plants planted at Phillips Creek.  Students spent their class period cutting away blackberry stems and digging up roots which had begun to invade our native plants.  Students also picked up any litter they saw around Phillips Creek and played a game of Riparian Metaphors, which helped to remind them of the positive aspects of a riparian ecosystem.  Good Job Clackamas Middle College!

Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek Doing Stations!

Rachel Carson Middle School students visited Willow Creek Wednesday, October 2nd for riparian restoration projects. Students split into groups and cycled through three different stations focused on invasive plant removal, water quality testing, and site familiarization.

At the first station, students played the Riparian Metaphor game to reestablish what was learned in class during the previous watershed presentation.  Sixth grade students were then led by eight grade students on a tour of the site.  The either graders shared personal stories of blackberry bushes that had towered over their heads, the efforts required to remove the gnarled blackberry roots, and planting native shrubs and trees which are currently growing magnificently.  Finally, students were introduced to some fundamental plant identification skills and then quizzed!  Their prior knowledge of plant i.d. was truly impressive!

The second station went down to the edge of the creek and took numerous measurements regarding water quality, while the third station used shovels and loppers to dig out the wretched blackberry that survived last years removal efforts.  Due to the blackberry removal, a plethora of weeds were suddenly given the opportunity to spring forth. These weeds included thistles, Morning Glory & the ominous Deadly Purple Night Shade.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and much was learnt about the changing face of Willow Creek.  No longer burdened with Armenian Blackberry, the Red Osier Dogwoods and native willows are thriving. Most were planted a mere six months ago and now towered over us while we worked. These native trees will keep the soil in place and keep Willow Creek cool so that our fish can breathe easy.

Keep up the amazing work Rachel Carson Middle School & Thank You!


Beaver Creek has 100 brand new native plants!

Portland Lutheran School Green Team joined us at Beaver Creek ALL day today.  35 very enthusiastic students jumped aboard a TriMet bus and made their way from the school to Gresham to the creek for a sunny fun-filled day.  Students planted 100 new native trees and shrubs to create shade, habitat and to help filter toxins for Beaver Creek.

Some students even took a trip down a beaver “slide” to see what it’s like to be a beaver at Beaver Creek!

Students also helped clear invasive Armenian(formerly known as Himalayan) Blackberry from around some natives planted by volunteers last year!  Students competed with each other for the biggest root award!

With teacher, Mr. Tarbell, students learned all about stream mapping techniques and tested pH, temperature and conductivity of Beaver Creek.

Thanks so much Portland Lutheran!  We’ll see you next month for a fishy adventure up the Sandy River!

Aloha High 1, Blackberry 0

And they’re off!  Aloha High School’s AP Environmental Science class got a running start on their first task as a Green Team this morning.  The class showed up bright and early to review watershed basics and begin our elimination of Armenian Blackberry.  Students remembered key components of Riparian Corridors and jumped right into cutting down and digging out Armenian Blackberry.   They surely impressed Meghan and I (Gina) with how much work they were able to get done within one class period!!

On a side note: It turns out that educating fellow classmates about the true origins of Armenian Blackberry (formerly known as Himalayan Blackberry) is a very effective way of impressing each other, as well.

These students brought their A-game today and we are looking forward to future match-ups to try to conquer plants that threaten the survival of our native ones.  This Green Team is definitely one to look out for this season.

Springdale Job Corps Busy at Beaver Creek

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Green Team staff has been very busy running around these past few weeks planning all of our Green Team events for this coming school year! We are excited to spend more time monitoring our streams’ health by looking at macroinvertibrates (read: bugs) in our stream systems this year.

Meanwhile, there is still much work to be done in the field to water and take care of the many native plants past Green Teams have planted, especially in this unusally hot weather! Last Friday, some members of the Springdale Job Corps came out to volunteer with us at our Beaver Creek site in Troutdale. Our volunteers, Michelle, Doug, and Chanel, were awesome workers. Despite the muggy heat and the sweat that was dripping down our faces and the cottony fireweed seeds we kept inhaling, we got a lot of work done!  They cleared blackberry and fireweed that was threatening to shade out over 100 native trees and shrubs that were planted earlier in the year. Then we added mulch to the bottom of the plants to prevent further weeds from choking them out.  This also prevents their roots from drying out too much.

We love having the Springdale Job Corps come out and helping with our sites, and they seemed to have a great time too!

Parrott Creek Students Tackle Invasives Head-on

This summer, SOLV has started up a partnership with Parrott Creek Ranch. Miles, Xuan, and Perry have had a wonderful time starting to get to know this hard-working and energetic bunch of students! The team is also lucky enough to be joined by Jeff, one of the neighbors living next to Rinearson Creek. The Parrott Creek students, of all high school ages, have now been working at the Rinearson Creek and Meldrum Bar Park sites for the past two and a half weeks. Already, the students have made a significant impact by clearing large patches of invasive blackberry from the slope of Rinearson Creek and pulling wild cucumber and ivy from areas in Meldrum Bar Park. It is amazing how they tackle these invasive plants with such gusto!

Because they will be visiting the sites twice a week over the next six weeks, we know that there is even more of an impact to come. A few of the students have also expressed interest in working with the turtle populations residing in the pond. They loved the idea of getting down in the mud and water to check the turtle traps!

Xuan, Miles, and Perry are looking forward to forming a closer relationship with both Parrott Creek and its students over the coming weeks. This lively group has a lot to offer!

Results of intensive blackberry removal at Rinearson

Ready yourself for battle… Volunteer!

Check out this funny video about invasive plant removal and volunteer to battle!  Special thanks to Clackamas High School Green Team teacher Angie Shroufe, Green Team intern Sandra Tellez, Green Team students from King Elementary and Clackamas High schools, and all the other fabulous volunteers for acting!!

Do you know where stormwater goes?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Students from Timber Lake Job Corps joined us for TWO days last week to help clean up Phillips Creek.  Phillips Creek flows beside 82nd Ave and the Clackamas Town Center and is surrounded by a sea of roads, parking lots and buildings; also known as impervious surfaces.  Impervious surfaces do not allow rainwater to filter through them causing stormwater to run right off the surface into storm drains.  Timber Lake students saw the very real effects of stormwater in the form of litter in Phillips Creek.

Question:  Do you know where stormwater goes once it enters a storm drain?

Answer:  A lot of the time the nearest neighborhood stream, untreated and unfiltered.

From Tualatin Riverkeepers:

When it rains, everything that falls in streets or parking lots is washed into the nearest stream through the storm drain. For most of the Tualatin Valley, stormwater runoff from streets gets no treatment or filtering at all. All sorts of harmful things end up in our streams:

  • Oil and other fluids that drips off of cars
  • Fertilizers that feed harmful algae
  • Brake dust with heavy metals that harm fish
  • Cigarette butts and other garbage
  • Pesticides poisonous to aquatic life
  • Sediments that consume dissolved oxygen
  • Pet poop loaded with pathogens
  • Dirt and soap from car washing
Being next to a shopping mall, single-use plastic shopping bags and many other litter items often get carried in stormwater to Phillips Creek.  Students did a fantastic job cleaning up this green space and collected about 200 pounds of trash!  In addition to shopping bags students also found shopping carts, a baby stroller and a stool.
Timber Lake Job Corps did not stop at litter!  Students also worked hard to control Armenian (Himalayan) blackberry and Reed Canary Grass which was crowding out our newly planted natives.  Thank you Timber Lake!!!

Kids and Critters at Willow Creek

Willow Creek was a buzz of activity this week with Deer Park students planting on Tuesday and 60 students from Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School visiting the site on Wednesday.   

Rachel Carson students installed coffee bags around native plants and shrubs along the creek after removing old and new-growth of invasive reed canary grass.  These coffee bags will biodegrade in a short time, but allows the plant to get a head start without pesky weeds and invasives competing for light and space.  After maintaining existing plants, students harvested willow cuttings from the site and installed live stakes along the stream to eventually provide soil stabilization and shade.

Students also helped tweak our native turtle habitat that we will be working on for the next year or so; biologists from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been really helpful in directing our building efforts of this habitat.  We hope that within coming years, native western pond and western painted turtles will live and lay their eggs at the site. 

Though we haven’t seen any turtles yet, wildlife was out and about at Willow Creek this week!  Students saw a large blue heron, mallards, garter snakes, Pacific tree frogs and even a nest of native gray tailed vole babies!  From the Smithsonian website:

One of several voles with very small ranges, Gray-tailed Voles live only in lower-elevation grasslands. They do well in agricultural areas. They are excellent swimmers and can often escape flooding that way.

Students used great care when they discovered the nest and were able to observe four voles out and about in their nest.  Check out this OPB video about “vole holes!”

Reynolds Battles Garlic Mustard

On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday AND Friday this week, students from Reynolds Natural Resource Academy fought hard against a new and somewhat unfamiliar invader; Garlic Mustard.

While Garlic Mustard is a relatively new invader to the Columbia Gorge and Willamette Valley, it is prolific in the midwest and east coast.   This Early Detection and Rapid Response weed is allelopathic, meaning its roots release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants on the forest floor including any tree saplings.  SOLV volunteers and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District are working hard to contain and control Garlic Mustard along Beaver Creek before it becomes a widespread invasive (like Reed Canary Grass).

From the Oregonian:

Garlic Mustard crowds out native plants and wildflowers in the forest understory. And it releases chemicals into the soil that kill fungus vital to native plants. That, in turn, can cause problems for native wildlife and healthy streams.

Unlike invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry, English ivy and Scotch broom, garlic mustard looks unobtrusive. The springtime rosette of leaves grows into a stalk with small, white flowers in early May. The seed pods explode, and one plant can produce thousands of seeds. Seeds are picked up by passing humans and animals, spread by mowing and washed into drainages.

Where the seeds land, they almost invariably grow.

April is the ideal time to pull Garlic Mustard since this is a month before it flowers and starts to produce seeds.  Students pulled up and bagged Garlic Mustard including roots.  If any part of the plant is left on site, including just a single leaf, it will regenerate and produce seeds.  Students ended up filling 15 large SOLV bags!  Thank you Reynolds Natural Resource Academy!!