By Lauren Seynhaeve- staff
Millions of cigarette butts, plastic bags, cans and various other trash litter parks, rivers and oceans around the world. In an effort to help dispose of this hazardous and unsightly debris in Portland, the Portland Aquarium set up a program called Stewardship Saturday.
On March 16, the first Stewarship Saturday took place in Clackamette Park at the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas rivers in Oregon City. The aquarium partnered with SOLVE and Oregon City Parks and Recreation to establish a teaching and cleaning event.
“The number one thing we’re trying to do is educate Portlanders about how their watershed works,” said Aaron Philips, who worked as the director of education for the event. “What we do here on land has a really big impact not only on the coast but in the ocean. It’s incredibly detrimental to marine life.”
Over the next year, the Portland Aquarium intends to make Clackamette Park completely litter free. They also plan to remove invasive plant species and replace them with native shrubs, trees and grasses to improve the park’s beauty and environmental stability. On the 16th, volunteers at Stewardship Saturday collected and disposed of nearly 20 pounds of debris – not including a mattress and some tires that were also found.
“Our hopes for continuing this project is to keep up with this trash flow,” Aquarium Environmental Outreach Coodinator Amiana McEwen said. “Over the next couple of years we hope to restore the park. We want families to enjoy this park instead of seeing all that debris.”
Clackamette Park is a watershed: an area of land in which all water on it and under it goes to the same place. In this case, the Willamette and Clackamas rivers lead to the Pacific Ocean.
Everyone in Portland is part of a watershed, according to the City of Portland, and although Portland is considered a leader in restoring urban waterways and using natural approaches to manage issues like storm water, there are still very real dangers to wildlife posed by things as small as a cigarette butt.
Litter and other debris can be confused for food by wildlife, seriously harming animals that ingest it. Trash isn’t just an eyesore – it’s an environmental problem.
The Portland Aquarium wants Portlanders to learn more about the watersheds in the area and about how to take care of them.
“Our goal for this program is not only to restore these areas – it’s mainly geared toward bringing together the community,” McEwen said. “A big part of what we do is to educate people about why we’re doing this and to have them continue to do this on their own.”
Future Stewardship Saturday events will be posted to a calendar on the aquarium’s web site at portlandaquarium.net. The events will be held every two to three Saturdays.
“If Portland realizes that we care about the area, that can only do good things for us as an educator,” Philips said.
To get involved with future Stewardship Saturday events and learn more about Portland’s watersheds, the Portland Aquarium invites people of all ages to register online to volunteer.