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News: Columbia River Gorge Suffered Devastating Fire


June 09, 2020

The Portland Garden Club Responds

A devastating fire destroyed 48,000 acres in the John B. Yeon Scenic Corridor of the Columbia River Gorge in 2017. With a longtime commitment to the Gorge, The Portland Garden Club (PGC) immediately moved into planning mode. The PGC applied and received a $10,000 grant from The Garden Club of America Restoration Initiative. The initiative was designed to enable GCA member clubs to respond to catastrophic weather-related disasters. Currently the fire restoration work continues with The Portland Garden Club and Friends of the Gorge planting native species across the gorge in the Nancy Russell Overlook.

Friends of the Gorge staff and volunteers began with restoring some of the trails. But, efforts in the Yeon Scenic Corridor were stalled because of unsafe conditions. The Burn Area Emergency Response report by the US Forest Service stated that “invasive species are the most serious ecological threat…” It soon became apparent that the restoration groups needed to understand the scope of the disaster and develop an action plan before proceeding. 

In response, the PGC awarded $9,000 of the $10,000 grant to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to remove Robert (Geranium robertianum), an invasive weed that thrives in disturbed soils. The remaining $1,000 was planned for native plant and seed purchases.

The PGC also granted $2,500 to the Trailkeepers of Oregon for trail restoration and $2,500 to the Friends of the Gorge (FOTG) for plantings.  

The invasive removal is underway, the treacherous post-fire trails are being cleared and re-graded by the Trailkeepers of Oregon, and planting is scheduled for Fall 2020. Meanwhile, across the gorge, the PGC and FOTG held a successful planting day at the Nancy Russell Overlook. The overlook is named for PGC member, Nancy Russell, whose efforts led to the 1986 Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act. Working with the FOTG, the Cape Horn Conservancy, and the US Forest Service, in early March, PGC members planted 100 Oregon Grape plants. 

Wildflowers appear once more, and hiking trails are reopening. The Portland Garden Club takes pride in its historic advocacy of the gorge.  

In response to COVID-19, the park and trails are closed. However, this fall, the PGC members hope to stay on schedule and plant native shrubs at the burn site. 


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IN MEMORIAM: Nancy McLaren, Chairman of the Martin McLaren Horticultural Scholarship
2003 Recipient of the GCA Distinguished Service Medal
May 26, 2020

GCA Medalist Delivers 39,000 Daffodils and Tulips
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