As a member of PSU’s Summer 2011 Neighborhoods and Watersheds Class, I found myself last Sunday at Sellwood Park, assisting with the booth of the Crystal Springs Community Collaborative. I manned the watershed model and tried my best to explain to young and old alike the workings of creeks, rivers, and rain, and the dangers of pollutants (or, as in my model, food coloring) carelessly disposed of in our backyards and around the city. Again and again the colorful toxins poured out of the overturned toy gas truck and the driveways of careless citizens inhabiting Watershedland and swamped the poor crawfish, turtle, and otter hanging out in the nearby ocean. They mixed in the sea to form nasty, black ooze that elicited shudders from even the most stalwart of my visitors. In repeatedly poisoning our dear marine friends, I was able to reflect on how important community is to restoration and protection of natural places.
Like Watershedland, our community plays a role in protecting our watershed. If a resident of Watershedland dumps yellow food coloring in his driveway, when the rain clouds (or giant spray bottle in the sky) come and dump their water, the toxic waste is whisked down into the creek. The situation is the same in the Sellwood area (minus the giant spray bottle), albeit a little less dramatic and visible. This is why community involvement and education are so important. Everyone in the community must get on board to protect and preserve their watershed, and everyone must also know that their actions, even miles from any visible creek, river, or lake, can have drastic consequences on the marine life (both plastic and biological) downstream. And not just marine life, but people too are adversely affected by toxins and pollution in our water.
Because community is so important, it was a great experience to be at Sundae in the Park. People stopped by, curious about our mission (or the toy cars in Watershedland) left with new knowledge about protecting the natural resources in our area. It was an awesome chance to educate, and a fun time was had by all (except for maybe by the plastic crawfish, turtle, and otter).