by Jen Newlin
In the seething summer heat — after a day of hiking — Jason Dumont waded across the Sandy River to a restoration site. In the current, a cold, unopened bottle of organic lemonade floated down the river and right into his hand. Divine.
Dumont, the Conservancy’s Portland area preserves manager, has seen an increase in ‘stuff’ this year. Some tokens are welcome (like the lemonade). Others? Not so much. In a single trip by kayak patrolling for invasive plants, Dumont and crew rounded up an inner tube, paddle, kayak pieces, over 100 cans and bottles, shoes, a wallet, pipe, squirt guns (they kept those), a small barbecue, cooler and other flotsam. They built a makeshift barge to haul it all out.
In the Sandy River Gorge, six miles of untamed river with upland terraces and canyons provide excellent habitat for wild salmon and steelhead, wildlife and an old-growth forest, all within 20 miles of Oregon’s largest urban area. Recreation use is growing, evidenced by all the stuff.
Dumont, entertained by the unexpected finds and ultimately glad that people are getting outdoors, notes that greater public use is partly what habitat restoration is designed to accommodate. He and others will continue picking up stuff while neighbors, visitors and communities are encouraged to take care of improved habitats.
The Conservancy owns or manages about 500 acres in what is about a one-half million-acre basin. His crews work on Conservancy land, but actually spend more time working on other private or public property with permission. “Because the water and natural areas aren’t confined to property boundaries, neither are we,” Dumont said.
This year, in tangent with work done by the Sandy River Basins Partners group, Dumont and crews concentrated on 10 sites, removing blackberry and other invasive species, doing community outreach, leading trainings and restoring healthy streamside forests. At Dabney State Recreation Area, for instance, they planted 15,000 native trees and shrubs. About 20,000 were planted on Sandy city park land.
By inflatable kayak, they also continue a winning 10-year campaign against invasive knotweed — an often grueling task. Good thing they kept those squirt guns.
Jen Newlin is a writer and graphic designer for The Nature Conservancy.