Fifteen years ago, Ed Kerns created the Lents Springwater Habitat Restoration Project, which coordinates clean-up efforts and native tree plantings along the Springwater Corridor within the Lents neighborhood. These plantings are done by the residents of Lents, but primarily by the kids of that neighborhood - from schools such as Kelly and Lents Elementary and Marshall High School, and many others. In addition to the 8 or 10 annual tree plantings, Ed provides a short curriculum on the history of the Springwater Corridor and Johnson Creek, as well as habitat restoration and watershed management. Ed also manages monthly volunteer workdays for the removal of concrete, asphalt, brick, non-native plants and illegal dumps to prepare areas for future plantings. These crews also maintain previous plantings by weeding, mulching, and watering. Over the history of this project, there have been over 100 plantings of 30,000 native trees and shrubs by 3,000 kids and 1,500 adults.
Removing this amount of concrete and asphalt impervious surface from within the flood zone of Johnson creek will improve storm water retention. Replacing this impervious debris with clean soil and native plants will greatly improve wildlife habitat and beautify this “natural area”. But maybe the larger benefits can be viewed more in terms of community involvement and education. The students who participate in this project are learning about native plants, watershed management, and how to work together to build, value and maintain public property. Most of all though - by working with the youth of this neighborhood - Ed is hoping to establish a few thousand community stewards or environmentalists for Portland’s future.