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Thursday, August 20, 2009

 
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right before the wisconsin trip i have yet to write about, sven & i went on a walk on powell butte w/ a parks & rec biologist. powell butte is our playground, but i don't actually know much about it -- except that the hill outside my house is very steep. :) construction for new reservoirs may close the main road up to the butte for a while, so despite bumping against our packing deadline, we decided it was worth it.

the biologist was a bit of a crusty curmudgeon who obviously loves powell butte but must have been "volunteered" to lead us. powell butte is a square mile of extinct volcano on the outer se edge of portland. it's the second largest park in portland. our biologist showed us "lidar" images which were fascinating and clearly showed the geological processes that formed the it. the City bought powell butte in 1922, when it was still a large farm, and there is a row of oak trees to mark a prior windbreak. but it's only been open to the public since the 90s. (side note: clackamas means “lots of kamas,” kamas being bulbs native americans used to eat.)

the job of the biologists is to return the landscape to a more native habitat. powell butte has been attempting to hack back its 30-60 acres of blackberries & hawthorne, replacing them with thimbleberry & ursine native blackberries. he brought a camera with embedded gps to document invasive species. fire prevention is another large component of the biologists' job: they burn 20-30 acres a year and trim the doug fir skirts to keep low bush fires from consuming the whole tree.

the reservoir construction will alter the butte: some trails will be rerouted during construction and some trails will remain rerouted afterwards. the concrete ditch will be removed, too. i was very happy to learn the compass rose will be replaced as part of the project, but i was sad to see the compass rose bench is gone -- they simply sawed it off after vandals damaged it. i hope they replace it and place benches on the new trails, too, but this marked one of our biggest disagreements. he says he wants to promote walking, not loitering, and that benches attract vandals and drugdealing. however, i feel quite strongly that offering rest points and vistas is a prime way to enjoy powell butte -- one does not need to be in motion to appreciate the outdoors, and places to contemplate and relax are rare. plus, benches help people who may not be in a good shape get in better shape by allowing them to go at their own pace and rest when needed. that's how i explored the springwater early in my biking days, for instance, by hopping from bench to bench (and why it's so difficult for me to see the damage done to some of the benches lately).

near the apple orchard (which will remain, thank goodness!), he showed us three memorial oaks planted in honor of former powell butte attenders. they have no plaques or designations because they wanted the memorial to be about the planting of the tree, so it's neat to know what they're for.

near the end of the walk he turned some mountain bikes around on a path reserved for hikers & horses. i'm always interested to see how people respond and use authority in situations like this. apparently, the way you do it is by overwhelming an otherwise well-meaning couple with biological repercussions, rules and lingo. it was pretty awesome.

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