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Cleanup effort focuses on nine sites along Bear Creek

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAnnie and Tiffany Idiart move a cut limb during the Greenway Cleaanup Saturday morning in Central Point.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneDonavan Edwards makes cuts during the Greenway Cleaanup Saturday morning in Central Point.

A group of volunteers spent Saturday morning beautifying local outdoor areas to mark Bear Creek Stewardship Day.

One of the volunteers, Amanda Wolfe, of Central Point, was walking along the greenway near Pine Street and pushing a wheelbarrow full of mulch material.

“It’s my first time at the cleanup,” said Amanda, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. “I didn’t want to just sit there, complain and not do anything to help.”

While she doesn’t use the trail area there often, her aunt does, she said.

Wendie Wolfe, also of Central Point, was pushing a wheelbarrow and passed her niece, Amanda, on the trail. Both were among about 20 volunteers at the Pine Street hauling and spreading mulch.

Helen Hull, 16, and her younger brother, Gibson Hull, 14, both of Central Point, were raking mulch material next to the trail on a patch of land near the Pine Street bridge over the creek.

“We’ve gone on bike rides here before,” Helen remembered.

Gibson had been at the April cleanup pulling weeds and taking up bushes. He said he hadn’t had the chance to get a good look at the spots where he worked the last time.

This was the first time Helen has participated.

Both siblings said they felt positive about the work they were doing.

“It’s a good experience,” Helen noted.

Others were seen picking up garbage or trimming bushes.

Bear Creek Stewards, the organization that hosted the clean-up, is composed of members representing local cities, groups and businesses. On Saturday, focus was on beautification projects at nine locations along the watershed from Central Point to the Ashland area. Volunteers could choose from an array of locations to do their work as well as select an activity.

For example, Coleman Creek, Blue Heron and Lynn Newbry parks were slated for blueberry grubbing. Pine Street was not only a mulching site but volunteers were also weeding and involved with plant maintenance.

The Bear Creek Greenway trail is 20 miles long and runs from Central Point to Ashland.

The Pine Street area has been the subject of improvement work since the Penninger Fire in 2018, said Amie Siedlecki, Water Quality Technician, Natural Resources, Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

That fire started near the Jackson County Expo in July of 2018 that burned 97 acres. It resulted in the death of a homeless man and destroyed five outbuildings, according to previous reports.

Replacement cotton and juniper trees, still young, can be seen at the Pine Street location, which also has interpretive signs that provide information about such topics as fire safety, ecology and plants there, Seidlecki said.

A large amount of creek corridor was also burned in the Almeda Fire that occurred in September of 2020.

Social distancing was emphasized and face masks were available to help the participants avoid exposure to COVID-19. The event was also a way to recognize National Public Lands Day, which was also on Saturday.

Their cleanups in April coincide with Earth Day and the last one involved more than 200 volunteers. They removed about 7,000 pounds of trash, 480 pounds of dead juniper and more than 500 pounds of metal that was later recycled, the Bear Creek Stewardship reported.

These twice-a-year cleanups began in 2015. More than 21,000 pounds of trash have been removed alone during these events.

SOLVE is the statewide sponsor of cleanup events Saturday along beaches and other waterways, including this local effort. With the help of partners and donors, the Portland-based group aims to preserve and restore the state’s environment through volunteer efforts, according to its website, solveoregon.org.