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Beth Sorensen
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Reed College's Spring Canyon Day set for Saturday, April 16

Campus and community work together in biannual event to restore wildlife habitat

PORTLAND, OR (March 15, 2005) – Reed College’s Canyon Day, the biannual event when students, faculty, and staff join members of the community to help protect and restore this vital wildlife habitat, is set for 9 a.m to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

Anyone interested in participating in this hands-on effort to remove invasive species and restore the habitat to its natural state, is invited to meet at the east end of the canyon below the college’s chemistry building. All tools, training, and food will be provided.

The Reed College canyon is located at the headwaters of Crystal Springs Creek, and provides 21 acres of wildlife habitat in the middle of southeast Portland. Johnson Creek Basin Protection Plan identified the canyon as "the only naturally occurring pond (or lake) remaining in the inner-city area." The canyon is currently under significant restoration, removing invasive species and attempting to restore the canyon to its natural state. Canyon Day focuses on protecting and restoring the natural vegetation in order to make the canyon a better habitat for urban wildlife.

As the self-described "Keeper of the Canyon" Zac Perry explains, "Canyon Day is a major aspect of canyon restoration." In collaboration with Greenboard, the on-campus environmental organization which also organizes Car-Free Day, and the college’s grounds department, Zach provides tools, plants, and a vision to Canyon Day. "I try to be behind the scenes as much as possible," he notes. "I just explain how to plant plants, and try to make each person feel comfortable. I want anyone to walk into Canyon Day and feel confident that what they’re doing is important and significant."

Canyon Day, Perry explains, is more than a great opportunity give back to the canyon – it’s a chance to have fun, and to meet new people from the Reed community and the neighborhood. "It’s awesome – it’s really a happenin’ work party. Everybody’s in good spirits." At the end of the day, "everyone is so happy with what they’ve done."

Canyon Day provides food, tools, plants, and great music for anyone interested in joining in. Perry is quick to explain that there’s no necessary time commitment – people can join in for a few hours here and there, or work the whole day. Furthermore, you can choose whatever task you’re most comfortable with. As Perry points out, "You can come in and work and rage on ivy or you can plant ferns."

Participants will also have a chance to listen to some great bluegrass while you work. "The bluegrass aspect of Canyon Day has been around for four or five years," notes Perry. " I want it to be a part of the way Canyon Day should be." With Reed College student band the Dirty Bottom Boys regaling workers with bluegrass tunes, the work goes faster, and spirits stay high. "Weeding is a little easier when you’re listening to good music."

Canyon Day’s history reaches back 90 years, when the original college planners wanted to transform the grounds into an urban park. With one day each year devoted to working together in the canyon, early Canyon Days focused on clearing debris, and creating a park. Canyon Day in 1915 brought about the creation of a swimming hole, onto which was added a dock, a diving platform, and separate bathhouses. In more recent history, however, the emphasis has shifted to restoring, rather than renovating, and preserving the natural beauty of the canyon. Recent Canyon Days have brought about the removal of litter, the forging of trails, and the elimination of invasive weeds replaced by natural vegetation.

These days, Canyon Day, held both in the spring and in the fall, is immensely helpful in the restoration project. "We plant 1200 plants, weed 1/4 of an acre, and throughout all that, everyone is having a good time," says Perry. "I think Canyon Day brings the college and the neighborhood together."

In addition to Canyon Day and the efforts to restore native vegetation and eliminate weeds, Reed College is currently in the middle of another large-scale project with the goal of enhancing the wildlife habitat. In the summer and fall of 2001, the college constructed a fish ladder, reconnecting the lake and lower creek. "The lake," explains Perry, is much like "a rearing pond for fish. The beauty of the lake is it’s like a giant filter – what passes through to Crystal Springs is the cleanest, best water." Reed Lake was created around the turn of the century with the construction of a 10-foot-high dam across Reed Creek, preventing fish passage.

While the canyon has always featured prominently on the Reed College campus, it’s only recently that it has been brought into the curriculum. Several faculty members use the canyon in their research and classes, and some students have begun to use the canyon as a source for information for their senior theses. As the restoration process continues, most involved with the canyon speculate that there will be an ongoing effort to monitor changes in the canyon.

As for Zac Perry’s vision for this year’s Canyon Day, he’s excited about the process, which he describes as "one plant at a time," and hopeful that this year will bring even more people. Most of all, he’s confident it will be a success. "Canyon Day always outdoes expectations!"

For more information about Canyon Day, email, call 503/572-8636, or visit the Canyon Day website at

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Reed College
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit .