Clean Water Heroes are making a difference every day as they take steps to reduce polluted runoff from their property. This effort helps to maintain the health of our local waterways while doing wonders for area gardens. Meet area Clean Water Heroes who are actively making a difference in their yards, neighborhoods and watershed!
Highland Park Middle School, a STEAM school in Beaverton, is now home to a swale that slows down and filters water from 8,600 square feet of the school’s parking lot. 300 biology students participated in design workshops and background lessons, then designed and planted 1,600 natives with to create the swale. This project engaged students in learning about the benefits of native plants while integrating science engineering and design practices throughout the course of the project.
Ten years ago, Dresden Skees-Gregory purchased a home on Downey Creek. The backyard was mainly dirt and the front had very little in the way of plants. Now, after eight years of hard work, Dresden's property has transformed dramatically. She's added a pond, planted nearly all native plants, has a raised bed and has added potted plants and birdfeeders.
Dresden enjoys a variety of wildlife visitors throughout the year including a Red-tailed Hawk family, a Great Blue Heron that fishes in her pond, raccoons, garden snakes and chipmunks. She also has a range of small native bees, including Mason bees, and butterflies that live in her garden. "We all get along in the same space just fine. We all share the same backyard," said Dresden.
Dresden began her project with only five plants and has since received several local species from Clean Water Services and also from the NatureScaping for Clean Rivers classes she participated in. Dresden now has between 100-150 local plant species in her garden. Some of her favorite choices for an urban yard are star-flowered false Solomon's seal, salal, coastal strawberry and the native Western azalea for its fantastic smell. "For those with a bit more space, or wanting some height, I like black twinberry, Oregon grape, mock orange, blue elderberry, pink honeysuckle bush and Indian plum."
A group of seventh grade students lead by one special teacher have combined resources, creativity and hard work to create a rain garden and stormwater swale in their school parking lot. Sue Manning and the students of Fowler Middle School in Tigard together with Clean Water Services, Tualatin Riverkeepers and the city of Tigard transformed a landscaped area into a native plant filled pond that will clean water before it enters storm drains that lead straight to Summer Creek—the school's backyard stream.
Sue Manning and her students worked with a Clean Water Services to calculate the size, design, plant and maintain the rain garden and swale. Students also helped create and install interpretive signs to teach others about the stormwater swale and rain garden.
When Bruce and Katie Barrett of Tigard bought their house in 2000, the sloping backyard that meets up with Derry Dell Creek was completely covered with Himalayan blackberry and English ivy. Today, their hillside is replanted with natives and you can see the creek and walking trail on the other side. "We knew the creek was down there because we could hear it, now we can actually see it," said Bruce.
The Barretts replanted their hillside with snowberry, several types of fern, Oregon grape, Douglas fir, cedar and wild rose. "We got most of our plants at Bosky Dell nursery. Now that the natives are planted, we don’t have to water or fertilize, just make sure the blackberry doesn't come back," said Katie.
Fran Beebe and her husband Blaine Ackley own a two acre urban forest minutes from bustling Orenco Station. When they first purchased the property in 1999, the trees were covered with English ivy and the native plants were overgrown with Himalayan blackberry. “It took us a few years just to get the ivy out of the trees. We hired workers with machetes to cut out the invasive plants and rounded up friends and neighbors to help pull the ivy and other weeds on the property,” said Fran.
Fran and Blaine focused their energy on one area at a time, first removing invasives then consulting a landscape designer to help plan revegetation with native species. "We needed help to determine what types of plants would thrive in the different areas of our property. Shade, sun, dry soil, wet soil—the land is diverse. We also got information and native plants form Clean Water Services staff who encouraged us in our efforts, and sometimes it’s nice to hear that you are doing a good job."
Now, most of their property is thriving with many native species including dogwood, wild ginger, bleeding heart, oxalis, Pacific ninebark, rhododendron, bigleaf maple, Douglas fir, vinca, woodland strawberries, sword and lady fern, Oregon grape and more. Fran and Blaine purchased many of their natives from local nurseries.
"There are so many pluses to using native plants—the maintenance is low, you don’t have to water after the plants are established and it creates good wildlife habitat. When you have such a big space you have to consider the amount of water and maintenance carefully." Fran uses natural fertilizer from a worm bin and a turning composter. "The natives are pretty and look like they have been here forever."
Aloha residents Robin Wendlant and Barbara McDonald have a vested interest in their watershed. The neighbors re-vegetated their adjoining backyards using nearly 100 percent native plants. As stream-side homeowners, their decision to eliminate invasive plants helps the overall health of their watershed by filtering pollutants from their stream and reducing the amount of chemicals they use in their yard. Clean Water Services donated 40 native plants including Douglas spirea and red-flowering currant.
"The only fertilizer we use on our lawns is compost," said Robin Wendlandt and Barbara McDonald. "We used almost completely native plants like sword fern, bleeding heart and evergreen huckleberry. Native plants require minimal care, are suited to the natural surroundings and are drought tolerant."
Karen and Bill Anderson's backyard is minutes from busy 185th in Beaverton, but it feels more like a remote wooded area, abundant with native plants and wildlife. This landscape didn't come overnight though, "When we moved in 31 years ago, this lot was bare, not one tree," said Bill Anderson.
Originally the Andersons planted natives to create habitat for wildlife but soon discovered other benefits. “The natives make great homes for birds and squirrels, but they also help us save on our water bill,” said Bill. Karen added, "We never have to use any fertilizer either."
The Anderson's yard includes; big leaf vine maple, Oregon iris, service berry, snowberry, sumac, trillium, wax cedar and several types of fern, many were purchased at Tualatin Nature Park and Audubon Society plant sales.
The Anderson's are planting tufted hair grass in the ditch by their house to cut down the pollutants that reach near-by Beaverton Creek. They don't plan to stop there either. "Next we're building a green house to grow our own native plants and a barrel to harvest rainwater for outdoor use," said Karen.