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Nature park revealed at recent Sellwood construction site

by: RITA A. LEONARD - The new fish-friendly culverts for Crystal Springs Creek, such as this one in Sellwood, are topped with rustic stone wall and wood fencing.After all the hustle and bustle and heavy equipment activity at S.E. 21st Avenue, the block between Tenino and Umatilla Streets in Sellwood has become a peaceful nature park.

Tall evergreens overlook a redesigned Crystal Springs Creek which now flows through fish-friendly culverts, and attracts various forms of wildlife. A pair of kingfishers was recently seen hunting there.

The new park is Phase I of a complex urban wildlife restoration project that aims to improve historic fish runs and native plant species, create “green street” stormwater facilities, offer a new interpretive trail, and restore wildlife habitat. Stream improvements should enhance urban runs of Coho & Chinook salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout.

The park is the former site of the Brannen home, which was purchased with funds from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.

Attractive stone bridges with arched cut-outs bookend the park, which has been recently grass-seeded and covered with protective material. Logs and bare tree roots criss-cross the creek, offering shelter and spawning areas to juvenile salmon and other riparian creatures.

Ornamental willows frame the scene at S.E. Tenino Street. A rough-hewn wooden fence borders the park, and a shaded viewing area is located at the corner of S.E. 21st and Umatilla Street. Other landscaping offers a variety of scenic views.

The new creek-side bridges imitate the design of the bridge and culvert installed earlier upstream at S.E. 28th Avenue, near the Rhododendron Gardens. That bridge, adjacent to Reed College gardens, is known as “Harry’s Bridge”.

“Harry” used to live in the white house between Harry’s Bridge and the Eastmoreland Golf Course, before Reed College bought the property. It’s now part of Reed’s garden program, but Harry’s name lives on, on the bridge.

Harry Rivelli, who lived at 5631 S.E. 28th Avenue until his 80’s, passed on in 2004. One of his sons installed the charming fish-shaped sign adjacent to the culvert that allows Crystal Springs Creek to flow from its headwaters at Reed College beneath S.E. 28th Avenue as the creek wends its way down to the Willamette River.

Not only does this culvert system on the creek enhance potential salmon runs to the headwaters of Crystal Springs Creek at Reed Lake, it also provides a new peaceful, natural viewing area for the public.