Community collaboration is essential in conservation. The greatest successes come when people work together to reach shared restoration goals. This philosophy is the driving force behind the restoration efforts on Hall Creek in the West Slope neighborhood. By coordinating across multiple properties, projects can achieve greater habitat connectivity.
A recent collaboration between Tualatin SWCD and community members living along Hall Creek has resulted in approximately seven acres of improved, connected habitat that will benefit wildlife, water quality, and people.
Hall Creek has experienced substantial change over time.
This tiny creek flows through northern Tualatin Valley. Over time, the area has been transformed from oak savanna to cattle pasture and dairy farms to a bustling urban neighborhood. When the golf craze hit Portland in the 1920s, a short-lived golf course was even built along the creek’s banks.
Today, Hall Creek starts its journey as a trickle near Canyon Road. It steadily travels through neighborhoods and Raleigh Park before joining Beaverton Creek near downtown Beaverton. Like the area surrounding Hall Creek, the creek looks nothing like it used to.
As the community continues to grow, the natural areas surrounding Hall Creek have been broken up into smaller and more disconnected pieces. This has caused the wildlife in the area to struggle to find food and shelter. Over time, the path of the creek was also restricted to an artificially straightened channel. The processes of habitat fragmentationThe process of dividing up a naturally occurring landscape into smaller, disconnected pieces. and stream channelizationRestricting the pathway of a stream, creek, or river. have drastic consequences for local wildlife and the health of the creek.
Communities have come together to support Hall Creek.
Fortunately, several residents living along Hall Creek decided to work together to support the area’s wildlife. It all started with an idea and a bit of community organizing.
Meet Rachel. When Rachel purchased her home in 2015, she could barely see the creek running through the property. As Rachel describes, “the day I put the key in the front door, the whole property was covered in English ivy and English laurel. The blackberry was so bad that the previous owners had to cut it off the roof to show the house.”
Rachel knew that her work would have a greater impact if other neighbors joined the effort. She invited a few neighbors and staff from Tualatin SWCD to her backyard and pitched the idea of starting a collaborative habitat restoration project along the stream.
Meet Robin. When Robin enrolled in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program she first heard about the restoration efforts along Hall Creek. The project was a perfect fit for her property.
One of Robin’s primary concerns was protecting the creek bank from erosion. As Robin explains, “previous owners had put big wooden planks in place to try and stabilize the creek bank, but [I] just knew that vegetative matter would be better.” And Robin was right!
Planting native plant species that have deep, complex root systems helps hold stream and creek banks together and prevents soil from eroding. A creek bank planted with native plants is more resilient than one with artificial barriers. Not only did the Hall Creek restoration project relieve Robin’s erosion concerns, it also brought her yard to life.
Tualatin SWCD leaps into action
Tualatin SWCD provides planning and financial assistance for conservation projects across Washington County. We respond to community concerns and help overcome natural resource challenges. To facilitate the Hall Creek restoration project, Tualatin SWCD has:
- Recruited neighboring homeowners to grow the project’s impact
- Coordinated interests and ideas between stakeholders
- Managed professional contractors to remove invasive species and plant native plants
- Provided financial support for restoration work
- Continued to monitor project success
Today, Hall Creek buzzes with life
Both Rachel and Robin have seen a tremendous transformation on their properties as the project has progressed. No longer do they look out their windows and see a blanket of English ivy and blackberry. In its place is a sea of elderberry, Oregon grape, red-flowering currant, rhododendrons, and lots of feathery ferns.
Their properties now exemplify what a Pacific Northwest creekside would traditionally look like – bursting with color and life. Their yards provide a connected habitat corridor for wildlife to use.
Not only has the project brought their yard to life, but it has also reduced the maintenance their properties need. Both women explained that while there was some work preparing their sites (which the restoration project helped with), now most of the work is just spot checking to make sure that the ivy and blackberry don’t come back.
What’s next for Hall Creek and other neighborhood streams?
Since the meeting in Rachel’s backyard, the Hall Creek restoration project has steadily expanded. During its first year (2019), 11 residents enrolled. The following year, enrollment more than doubled, to 32 residents. But the journey doesn’t end there.
Tualatin SWCD is continuing to work with area residents to expand the project, creating even more habitat. As the native plants continue to grow, so too will the Hall Creek restoration project.
The Hall Creek project isn’t the only restoration project along the creek. In recent years, Metro has improved another section of Hall Creek and the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District has plans to daylight the creekRemoving obstacles which are covering a creek, such as concrete or pavement. in Raleigh Park. Collaborative conservation isn’t a fast or easy process, but it does take conservation further than any one project can go.
Contact our Urban Conservation Program if you have a property along Hall Creek or see if there is an active neighborhood stream restoration project in your area.