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Portland World Environment Day events start with natural area celebration

April 25, 2013

A celebration of Portland’s newest natural area today kicked off a series of events between Earth Day and Portland’s World Environment Day (WED) celebration on June 5th. Staff from the United Nations Environment Programme, the City of Portland and the city’s partners gathered at the 63-acre Foster Floodplain Natural Area today to celebrate the project’s completion.

“Last summer, we finished work here to reconnect Johnson Creek with its historic floodplain,” said Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Director Dean Marriott. “In the process, we also created a beautiful natural area that provides new fish and wildlife habitat, reduces flood damage in the Lents neighborhood, and improves water quality in Johnson Creek.”

The Foster Floodplain celebration was the first of several events leading up to World Environment Day. The UN Environment Programme chose Portland to host this year’s North American World Environment Day celebration. All Portland-area neighbors, school groups, businesses, industries and organizations can be part of the celebration by scheduling events between Earth Day on April 22nd and World Environment Day on June 5th. People can go to www.portlandoregon.gov/WED to see scheduled events and add their events to the calendar of activities.

United Nations Environment Programme Regional Director Amy Fraenkel was in Portland for today’s celebration. “The Foster Floodplain is more than just a beautiful area, it also demonstrates Portland’s environmental leadership by helping heal the environment, while providing much needed places for the community to learn from and enjoy nature,” said Fraenkel. “The city’s commitment to integrating green infrastructure into urban neighborhoods and protecting and restoring the natural environment is precisely why we invited Portland to be the North American host city of World Environment Day.”

“Portland is being again recognized as a place focused on innovation, community connections and environmental stewardship,” said City Commissioner Nick Fish. “This incredible project shows how much can happen when local, state and federal agencies look beyond their boundaries and work together for the community’s benefit”.

The new natural area is south of Foster Road between SE 104th and SE 111th avenues near the Springwater Corridor Trail. It was once a residential neighborhood repeatedly inundated by floodwaters from Johnson Creek. Last fall, Environmental Services completed the floodplain restoration project. Portland Parks & Recreation now manages the site as a natural area.

“The ‘web of life’ where the success or failure of an individual organism affects many others is alive and well in this restored floodplain,” said Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “This site is another strand in that web. And it adds to our nearly 8,000 acres of natural area and supports our goals of creating and connecting wildlife corridors and habitat in east Portland. We are also excited that the public will be able to see and experience these natural processes through a new series of trails and paths. Recreation and environmental stewardship can work hand in hand.”

The restoration project excavated the broad floodplain to increase flood storage and planted thousands of native trees, shrubs and grasses to improve wildlife habitat. The work included removing rock lining from Johnson Creek that the Works Progress Administration installed in the 1930s to try to control flooding. The city preserved some of the stones removed from the creek’s banks and re-used them in bollards that mark the entrance to a new Johnson Creek pedestrian bridge.

The restored creek provides important habitat for threatened coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. Pond and wetland enhancements benefit sensitive frogs and salamanders. Killdeer and other ground-nesting birds and small mammals, including rabbits and skunk, live in the grasses and shrubs. Deer, coyote, hawks and bald eagles use the area.

The Foster Floodplain Natural Area is open to the public daily via an ADA-accessible trail and pedestrian bridge. A new parking area also serves as a trailhead for the Springwater Corridor Trail.

Contacts

Mark Ross, Portland Parks & Recreation, 503-823-5300

Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, United Nations Environment Programme, 202-812-2100 (cell)

Linc Mann, Bureau of Environmental Services, 503-823-5328