Reed College Canyon

Valuing the Benefits of Ecosystem Services Generated by the Reed Canyon Restoration Project: 1999-2009

2. History of the canyon

Reed College, located in Portland, Oregon, is nationally recognized for providing a rigorous academic program. Yet, according to Portland Parks and Wildlife, the campus is also the location of the highest quality terrestrial habitat in the Crystal Springs watershed and perhaps some of the purest water in Portland (Aldofson & Associates 2001, Zachariah Perry, November 25, 2009, meeting with Lauren Bloomquist and Rachel Workin). The 28-acre natural area, called the Reed Canyon, contains one of the headwaters of the Crystal Springs Creek: the spring-sourced Reed Lake and theReed Creek (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Reed College Campus and Reed College Canyon

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Key: 1. Reed Lake; 2. Fish Ladder and Footbridge; 3. Ritmanis Pond; 4. Rivelli Farm Property; 5. Crystal Springs Lake; 6. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens; 7. Gray Campus Center; 8. Physical Plant; 9. Eliot Hall; 10. Vollum College Center; 11. Hauser Library


Crystal Springs Creek feeds into the Johnson Creek one mile from its confluence with the Willamette River which then reaches the Columbia River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Reed Lake has been identified by the Johnson Creek Basin Protection Plan as the only naturally occurring lake remaining in the inner city of Portland (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability 1991, cited by Reed College Canyon). This waterway is unobstructed and allows for the migration of steelhead trout and threatened Coho salmon, among other fish species, from the ocean to Reed Lake. Reed Lake serves as both a breeding ground and habitat. Over 80 species of birds and a variety of mammals, aquatic invertebrates, and amphibians also populate this riparian zone; a detailed list is available in Appendix C. Florally, the Canyon is characterized by a variety of both coniferous and deciduous species including aquatic and marshland plants, for example, Douglas fir, Red Alder, Skunk Cabbage, and Horsetail (Reed College Canyon). Appendix B provides a list of plant species, including weedy and invasive plants, that are found in the Canyon.

2.1 The History of the Canyon and the Restoration Project

Early in Reed's history, poor management and the pervasive problem of invasive species degraded the environmental quality of the Reed Canyon. A pool built by the College in the 1930s diverted spring flow and blocked fish passage (see early pictures of the canyon in Appendix A). The area had a well-developed tree canopy, but there was regular burning for the purpose of land management that destroyed the Canyon's understory. Both the College and the surrounding areas used the Reed Canyon as a dumping ground for natural debris and trash. The lack of a trail system limited access to most parts of the area. Invasion by plants such as Himalayan blackberry, clematis, morning glory, and English ivy suppressed natural biodiversity and resulted in the domination of the area by a few species (Zachariah Perry, October 14, 2009, meeting with Rachel Workin and Lauren Bloomquist).

In 1999, alumna Laurel Wilking donated $35,000 specifically for the Reed Canyon, sparking the restoration project that continues today, ten years later. With the initial donation and approval from the Board of Trustees, two ecological consultants were hired to design an approximately one-million-dollar restoration plan for the Reed Canyon that met the qualifications of the Oregon Aquatic Habitat Restoration Guide. This program included strategies for filling in the swimming pool, constructing a fish ladder, removing invasive species, and diversifying vegetation (O'Connor and Smith 1999).

The restoration project fulfilled its initial goals; from 2000 to 2005, Reed made several one-time investments in the Canyon. These included the installation of the fish ladder, the removal of the swimming pool, the creation of a trail system, and the removal of the majority of the invasive species (Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, etc.). During this five-year period Zachariah Perry, Canyon Specialist, hired 20 students full-time over the summer and 40 students part-time during the school year. Presently, a student work crew continues the rehabilitation of the Reed Canyon by removing nonnative and invasive plants, revegetating the area with native plants, maintaining the trail system, removing hazards, clearing the fish ladder of debris, and ensuring that the Reed Canyon is kept safe for public use (Zachariah Perry, October 14, 2009, meeting with Rachel Workin and Lauren Bloomquist).

Since the restoration began, there have been noticeable increases in plant species diversity, new animal species, and overall improved environmental health (Zachariah Perry, October 14, 2009, meeting with Rachel Workin and Lauren Bloomquist). The Canyon is now regularly used recreationally by Reed students, staff, faculty, and nearby residents. Improved Canyon health has generated thesis and class projects in and about the Canyon. Additionally, younger students from public schools in the surrounding areas use the Canyon for educational purposes given its improved safety, trail systems, and full-time staff dedicated to caring for and learning about it.

In the near future, the restoration project will focus on restoring the Rivelli Farm Property, a 1.5-acre area located on the western edge of campus (see Figure 2), to create breeding pools for amphibians (Reed College News Center 2007). Systems for improved data collection are also in the process of implementation, including the installation of a motion-activated camera at the fish ladder to record the species of fish and number of fish that pass through the canyon (Zachariah Perry, November 25, 2009).

Figure 2: Rivelli Farm Property (located on 28th Street on the far west side of campus)


2.2 Funding & Maintaining the Restoration Effort

Shortly following the construction of the fish ladder, an Evolutionary Significant Unit of Coho salmon was listed as an endangered species (Office of Protected Resources). Since the construction of the fish ladder transformed the Reed Canyon into a possible breeding ground and habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service retroactively provided funding for approximately half of the cost of the fish ladder in support of the project-a grant of around $77,000 (Zachariah Perry, October 14, 2009, meeting with Rachel Workin and Lauren Bloomquist).

The restoration project has also received financial support from local, state, and private organizations, including the Bureau of Environmental Services, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Oregon State Weed Board, and the Bullitt Foundation (see Section 4.4.4). In addition, many individuals have earmarked donations specifically for the Canyon since Laurel Wilking's 1999 donation (David Frazee Johnson, November 20, 2009, e-mail message to Lauren Bloomquist). The restoration project has been incorporated into Reed's yearly budget since the project began, indicating the importance of the project to the Reed administration; in prior years, almost no funds or labor were dedicated to its upkeep (see Section 2.1).

2.3 Environmental Protections in the Canyon

Beginning in the 1970s, a series of federal acts were passed that focused on environmental policy; several of them continue to affect and protect ecosystems, including the Reed Canyon. State, regional, and local protections act in conjunction with the federal acts to as safeguard the Canyon.

The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved (U.S. Congress 2002, 222). The act also defines critical habitat for threatened and endangered species as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species (U.S. Congress 2002, 223). Coho and Chinook salmon are both listed as threatened species under federal status (Hennings 2006, Appendix 6). The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lists Coho salmon as endangered (Wildlife Division). Because these species pass through the Crystal Springs on their way to the Pacific Ocean, the Reed Canyon is officially classified as critical habitat. Therefore, the ESA provides direct protections to the Reed Canyon as habitat on account of its value to salmon populations, as does the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services incorporates the ESA into its yearly budget, ensuring its enforcement throughout the Portland Metro area (City of Portland Management & Finance, 1).

Other federal laws and regulations provide indirect protections to the Reed Canyon as well by controlling pollution and hazardous wastes. Applicable laws include the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1972, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, and the Clean Air Act of 1990. Although most of these regulations are focused on eliminating or reducing pollutants from private sources, each also indirectly enhances the Reed Canyon ecosystem by ensuring that hazardous wastes and chemicals don't enter streamflows, that surface waters remain habitable for wildlife, and that air pollutants are regulated for the sake of flora, fauna, and humans. These acts are for the sake of widespread social benefit in the form of a safer environment, but the Reed Canyon benefits as well.

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development protects riparian corridors under Statewide Planning Goals 5 and 6; these goals protect natural resources and conserve scenic and historic areas and open spaces and maintain and improve the quality of the air, water and land resources of the state (Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development Goals 2009). As a further level of protection, Metro, the regional government that oversees 25 cities in the greater Portland area, adopted Title 13 in 2005. Its purposes are to conserve, protect and restore a continuous ecologically viable streamside corridor system and to control water pollution (Pettis 2008, 1). Additionally, the City of Portland zoned the Reed Canyon under the Environmental Protection Zone and the Environmental Conservation Zone, prohibiting development on the creek and limiting development in areas near the creek (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability 2009, Quarter Section Maps and Zone Summaries). Portland's environmental zoning laws, Title 13, and statewide landuse planning goals protect the Reed canyon from development and pollutants.