For starters, this “No Trespassing” sign isn’t on private property. It’s on Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation Lands that are open to the public as the Rock Creek Greenway, west of Portland Oregon.
Fortunately there are many anglers who are simply crazed about catching fish and who would wade through Hell fire for a chance at a 7-lb. bass. They’ve criss-crossed this otherwise impassible area beyond the sign with several trails.
I want to look around on Park Lands behind that sign, checking for pollution. There’s just a dozen yards of privately owned parking lot between me and Park Lands.
A few seconds later, I’m on the side of the sign where nothing’s written. But now a 10 foot cliff obstructs me. I’m not an Eagle Scout like my son, but I did bring a few items.
Now I am on an anglers’ trail, although mushy, and safely on Park Lands. At bog level, I can see how a single creek channel may flow into a pond, but three channels will flow out.
I hear and see a few Red Winged Black Birds, crested sparrows, towhees, and robins in the creeks and their wetlands. Mallards, widgeons, and gadwalls cruise the quiet waters. Too many nutrias (more than zero) nuzzle each other.
Two years ago, a developer demolished an asbestos-laden building and dug out two leaking gasoline tanks from the two-acre lot that’s now above my head at the top of the cliff. They buried fifty cubic yards of soil that contained substantial concentrations of gasoline. I wondered if the Oregon rains were rinsing the pollutants out of the lot, and towards the creek at the bottom of the cliff.
I slogged my way east, along the edge of the northernmost creek, nearest to where the tanks were. I could see oily rainbows in the water ahead.
Thanks to discussions on Backyard Science, I am very cautious about mistaking an iron oxide “sheen” for a true oil or gasoline sheen. I can only call Action News 6 once about an oil “spill,” so I have to be right the first time.
Iron-rich soils leach out a rusty looking sheen that looks a lot like an oil spill. It could fool you.
I’m looking for a friendly analytical laboratory to test my sample.
I walked the edges of the creeks’ banks, looking for other sheens, and finding a few. I’m learning (and naming) every square foot of a wetland; a Bucket List item since childhood. Here’s Oak Island. Here’s Heron Pond.
I wonder if the old parking lot has settled and storm waters now rinse old oily residues that slowly drain into the Creek, near the sheen. But the sheen doesn’t smell oily.
Next I walked west on the Anglers’ Trail, still at the bottom of the grassy cliff, to a natural spring, or seep. It ran strong out of the grassy cliff wall, like a not-quite-turned off a garden hose; maybe a couple of gallons per minute.
It even flowed last July. I’m thrilled to come across an artesian spring. None of the developer’s consultants had noted it. It made all those blackberry flesh wounds worth it.
Startled at its heat, I stepped back as if the warm seep were alive. I’d seen frozen ponds with thawed edges scores of times and never thought that warmer groundwater inflows may be thawing the pond edges.
This trickle is far warmer than expected. A nearby well test 70 years ago was 10 degrees cooler. Technically we are 200 feet up on a 1000 foot extinct volcano. I imagine a city-sized lump of lava below, still smoldering like the last glowing log in the fireplace, under a half-mile of Missoula Mud, still warming the ground and this seep.
Since the vegetation has died back, I can see how a big section at the top of the cliff around the seep is settling. It’s not stable. At the bottom, water’s coming out of a discrete hole at least a foot deep. There’s other holes that are drainage paths; maybe from burrowing animals. The Station will have to put a retaining wall there but the earth won’t support it. That cliff is shedding soon.
It will be illegal for me to say any of this in a public hearing. The crime would be “engineering without a license.”
Nonetheless, I feel like documenting the seep is like drawing a face card at poker. My chances have improved.
In summertime, in other ponds you could feel the colder groundwater (aka spring water) rising and chilling your dangling feet.
In Northwest Oregon, we usually get a couple weeks of freezing weather and often, snow. I’ll peek at the seep in December and see if it’s still a tiny heat source and duck haven. Oh, it is December. Heh.
A brutal blackberry hedge blocked walking any further east, absent machete. Well beyond, there must be another hidden pond, where the heron seems to fade into grey smoke among the fading grasses.
I walked to these wetlands from the west, near these oaks and evergreens, west of Bethany Lake. Of course I couldn’t pass up a chance to throw myself into the sticker bushes. I took the jacket less shredded.
West of the Lake four evergreens stand out among the leafless oaks. I decided to walk to one of the big evergreens and guess its size.
I kept trekking east, towards the local version of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.
I’ve researched the land ownerships of this area next to the Park Greenspaces I’m trying to preserve against a gas station’s impacts. So I’m a little more confident high-stepping there than otherwise. I’ve got Tax Lot maps if a cop comes by.
I’d never trespass on private lands except to look at an ongoing, serious environmental violation. I regret to say we’ve had to do it many times. I’ll buy a drone soon.
Always leave yourself a way out. If confronted, Leave ASAP.
Of course we would never go into a restricted Park area.
The Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Land Management, private utilities, a cigarette and fossil fuels trafficker, and local governments all have easements and rights-of-ways for power and gas lines, that encumber these lands we treasure near Bethany Lake and these Creeks.
The developer pledges to convert an area the size of a parking space into wetlands, to compensate for cutting down century-old trees.
But there’s already a creosoted power pole pounded into the pond there, amid power and gas line easements, and a stormwater runoff discharge pipe. So the developer gives away nothing. You can’t plant anything there, certainly not redwoods and firs. You can’t even clear out the invasive bamboo from a pie slice of land with a gas pipeline under it.
We want the Parks District to get the land.
We beat the Chevron Station once. They may re-file.
It makes no sense. There’s too many gas stations already. But to the County, the herons and the ducks and the robins and the redwoods and the artesian seep matter for nothing. We’ll have to beat them over some cryptic County Code, but beat them we will.
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