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MailTribune.com
  • Bear Creek restoration comes into view on 'walk and talk'

  • A sliver of Bear Creek near downtown Medford is in the midst of a major makeover, and residents can check it out Saturday, pitch in or feel free to fire off a Tweet about it.
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  • A sliver of Bear Creek near downtown Medford is in the midst of a major makeover, and residents can check it out Saturday, pitch in or feel free to fire off a Tweet about it.
    The Bear Creek Restoration Project off Spencer Street in Medford will stage a "walk and talk" event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to show off the transformation this stretch of Medford's signature stream is undergoing in an effort to make the creek more pleasing to salmon, birds and other native fauna.
    Visitors can get a tour of the projects or pitch in by collecting garbage, digging up blackberries, mulching trees or just enjoying some birdwatching on the creek.
    Other volunteers will be there to produce videos and use social media to help garner long-term support and funding for this highly public restoration work.
    "It's been pretty epic, really," says Niki Del Pizzo, education director for the Ashland-based Lomakatsi Restoration Project, which has organized and administered the program. "We have all these different groups coming out here, and they see the value of the area and its potential.
    "When they come out here and work, they have an ownership of the area," she says.
    The work area is accessible off East 12th Street along the west side of Bear Creek.
    Last fall, a cadre of volunteers used mechanical and hand methods to remove large swaths of thick Himalayan blackberries — 50 feet wide and 1,700 feet long — that had over-run the riparian zone. Since then, more than 85 percent of the site has been planted with a variety of native plants, with 688 volunteers logging more than 2,110 hours of work.
    Several school groups so far have taken part in the project, as well.
    The project was funded through a $35,000 grant from the National Audubon Society's TogetherGreen Innovation Grants program, which is funded, in part, by Toyota. The grants focus on innovative ways to solve habitat problems while using new technologies to reach more diverse audiences.
    Bear Creek is both the heart and sewer of the five cities that straddle it from Ashland to Central Point. Its many ills include poor dissolved oxygen, turbidity and hot summer water that taxes the wild Rogue salmon and steelhead that use it as a nursery and refuge.
    This project is designed to replace non-native blackberries with native vegetation that over time will grow and provide a shady canopy for the creek. Reducing the solar warming of the water can help infant salmon survive and grow in a more fish-friendly environment.
    The canopy also could become a haven for the more than 160 different bird species that live in the Bear Creek watershed, according to the National Audubon Society.
    Several student groups have made long-term commitments to help ensure the plants survive by packing water down to them. Other groups conduct regular monitoring work, including temperature and turbidity ratings in the creek and measuring the growth rates of the plants. Work crews pick up trash and pull regenerating berry bushes before they can overrun the site.
    On Saturday, others will go a few steps further by shooting videos and posting them via social-media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to chronicle the project's success and garner more volunteer and financial support.
    It also will serve as a classroom for students and a demonstration to private landowners along the creek of what their land could look like if they got with the program.
    A group called Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. is teaming with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to offer a series of free, guided, summer tidepool and wildlife walks at Coquille Point in Bandon.
    Participants will explore part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge with a volunteer who will offer lessons about the rocky intertidal life of Coquille Point.
    Walkers can expect to see harbor seals, common murres, black oystercatchers, green anemones, ochre stars and more.
    The first set of two-hour walks will begin at 8 a.m. each morning from June 4 to 7, then again July 3-6. A final volley of walks will be held at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 1-2.
    Coquille Point is at the end of 11th Street in Bandon. Participants will be guided by volunteers in blue jackets bearing an SEA logo on the back.
    For information, contact SEA at 541-260-7770.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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