Growing up in the 1970s, Carla Bankston and her sister often played in the woods their family owns along the north bank of the Tualatin River. She fondly remembers admiring the blooming trilliums while walking with her mother through the colorful spring landscape. Just up the hill, their family’s cattle herd grazed a meadow spotted with apple trees.
Washington County’s population has grown significantly since Carla was a child. Urban developments between Tigard, Sherwood, Tualatin, and King City now encroach upon the Bankston woods. Their property’s position along the river is adjacent to 1,500 acres of separate conservation areas. This location makes their land a vital, connective piece of natural space in a rapidly urbanizing landscape.
In partnership with Clean Water Services and Columbia Land Trust, we’re helping Carla enhance nearly 13 acres of streamside forest.
Habitat Conservation Specialist, Mary Meier is leading the effort to make this patch of nature a thriving habitat. “It’s really great when we find landowners who are so excited to restore their property,” says Mary. “We offer financial incentives to encourage people to do that.”
The site presented complex challenges that would have been difficult to address without support. Invasive species like blackberry and reed canarygrass had engulfed large areas of the property. Deep gullies running down from Bull Mountain caused severe erosion. Culverts and fencing left from historic agricultural activity could be found throughout the area.
Beginning in 2017, the property underwent extensive weed treatment to make space for native plants. Last winter in 2020, the site was planted with 14,000 trees and shrubs representing 29 different species. Among the many types of plants installed, willow was included to support a beaver family that took up residency and built an impressive 8 foot dam. The diversity of plants will provide an abundance of food and shelter for many types of wildlife that travel through the property.
A conservation easement ensures the property will always be used as habitat.
As a dedicated volunteer with Tualatin Riverkeepers, Carla’s mother felt strongly about preserving her family’s piece of paradise. “My mom loved the animals and wanted them to be protected here forever,” Carla told us. That’s why, in 2009, Carla worked with Three Rivers Land Conservancy (now Columbia Land Trust) and Clean Water Services to place a conservation easement on the property. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements used to preserve a parcel of land for a specific purpose such as wildlife habitat, historic preservation, or agriculture.
Carla’s mother wrote in 2017, “The back of this property, which is now the easement, has always been special to us as a family, special for being a home for wild animals and birds and just a quiet place to walk. These things we hope it will always be. The animals, birds and native plants need a place to grow.”
The next step for the project is monitoring. Tualatin SWCD will routinely check on the site to see how well the newly planted species are growing and to treat any weeds that creep back onto the property.