In late August I had the opportunity to drive across America from Portland, Oregon to Western Pennsylvania and then to Buffalo, New York before flying back to Portland. I’ve traveled in the past, flown to Mexico and Hawaii, driven to Canada, California and Montana, but this adventure – all the way across the United States – was new for me, inspiring, and worthy to share.
When I first met Martha Shelley I knew her as a quiet writer of feminist historical fiction, researcher, and neighbor. She gave me the opportunity to build a website for her company, Ebisu Publications. As I worked with Martha and her wife, writer Sylvia Allen, I learned more. I discovered that Martha was one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and part of the ’69 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village.
Last week was a hot one in St. Johns. The temperatures exceeded 100 and the St. Johns Bridge, which never takes a bad photo, exceeded the usual expectations of beauty with the addition of dangling Greenpeace volunteers, pennants waving in the breeze, and blue lights shining through the night. If the Bridge were a woman, she would have been Halle Berry dressed for the Oscars.
I walked down each morning and each evening to see and to marvel. I work from home, designing websites for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. My skills are in demand, and it’s not often that I take time during the work day for a walk. Still, for this event, I took the time.
I went even though I am conflicted. Yes, I walked there in sandals made, at least in part, from petroleum. Yes, I own a car. Yes, my home uses oil to heat. Of course, I am conflicted.
When I first imagined the Pier Park Pick-Up in 2008, it was with a ragtag board of volunteers, all members of Friends of Pier Park. We are dedicated to the protection and improvement of this North Portland Park and knew it would take more than just our members to tackle the invasive ivy that covered an entire hillside along one sheltered valley and was established at the north end of the park as well. We knew we needed help.
The encroaching ivy was a threat to the native understory of ferns, wood violets and trilliums, a threat that could eventually rise to choke the Douglas firs that dominate the Park. One member suggested we call SOLVE to get help. SOLVE staff suggested we schedule our event to coincide with the SOLVE IT Earth Day event sponsored by Portland General Electric.
It was a brilliant suggestion. Over the past six years that we have pulled ivy, blackberries, holly and even Japanese knotweed, it has always been with the help of volunteers from companies across Portland. One year it was Boeing who showed up with 50 volunteers including spouses and children. This year it was a law firm, Perkins Coie, who arrived early and prepared with gloves and tools.
Along with our own volunteers and the support of Portland Parks staff I am proud to say that we have beaten back the ivy and the blackberries are at bay. The knotweed is nowhere to be seen and the holly starts that came up over the past year are removed. In fact, even the amount of litter picked up seems to decline each year.
This is the reward of consistency. In North Portland, in a neighborhood park that features a Sequoia grove and a forest of Douglas Fir, the ivy that is taking over so many of our public forests is virtually gone. Thank you SOLVE. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who have come out over the years to Pier Park for the annual SOLVE IT event. You have made a difference!