It was a clear and chilly November afternoon as students, neighbors, staff, and community partners gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of Eastham Community Center’s new outdoor classroom. Funded in part by the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, this project was undertaken in collaboration with Depave, a Portland, Oregon non-profit created to inspire and promote the removal of unnecessary concrete to create community green spaces and mitigate stormwater runoff.
Chelsea White-Brainard, Depave board member, praised the District’s decision to help fund the creation of the outdoor classroom. “District Manager Tom Salzer was excited about bringing Depave into Clackamas County and felt this project had a lot of value. It was an easy partnership and we’re hoping to work with the District again in the future.” What makes a project like this a good value? Lots of community involvement and a site host that’s an engaged and excited partner. “It takes a lot of time and effort on their part,” said White-Brainard. “The Eastham Community Center project was particularly attractive because is used by many different groups year round and everyone wanted to be involved. This new outdoor classroom will get a lot of use.”
This summer, volunteers removed 700 square feet of parking lot from in front of the Center and replaced it with gravel, permeable pavers and a rain garden. Planting boxes were constructed by Columbia River Carpenters Local Union 1503, blueberries and other plants were donated by Jackie Hammond-Williams of Maggy’s Farm and the Oregon City Farmers Market, and students from Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences contributed to the site’s construction. Hammond-Williams will be donating vegetable starts in the spring to fill the planter boxes, noting “Kids need to learn how to grow food . . . . always!”
Assistant District Manager Lisa Kilders noted that rain gutters will direct rain water to the garden. “This water will filter down into the ground and reduce the amount of stormwater that runs down the parking lot and street, picking up pollutants along the way, before going into storm drains.” she said. “It is a good conservation practice and we would like to see more projects like this in our community.”