West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District began working with River View Cemetery in 2012 to restore over 14 acres of forested land covered with highly invasive weeds such as English ivy and “Traveler’s Joy” (an invasive species of Clematis). The restoration agreement between River View and West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) continued work accomplished by Portland Parks and Recreation (PPR), Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), and Metro on 146 acres of adjoining forest purchased by Metro in 2011.
The entire cemetery property originally totaled over 300 acres. When a group of public and private entities including Metro, the City of Portland and Trust for Public Land purchased 146 acres in 2011, the city worked to control a number of invasive plants including English ivy, holly, and laurel. The remaining 170 acres consists of nearly 70 acres of forest that borders streams in deep ravines cutting through the cemetery grounds. Some work had been accomplished along one stream corridor to control English ivy and other noxious weeds but most of it had not been managed for years. WMSWCD funded 50% of the project ($8,200) with the remainder provided by River View Cemetery. The project called for invasive weed control followed by plantings of native grasses, shrubs and trees.
When the project began, WMSWCD Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr and District interns inventoried all of the natural area forests owned by River View Cemetery and prioritized areas for future work. Once the original 14 acres were restored, Michael and River View Executive Director David Noble got to work on the next project areas. Michael had highlighted some areas that were in need of attention and David chose to tackle the work in 2 highly visible areas: 1) a 3.3 acre patch of streamside forest just upstream from the Stephens Creek Confluence Project where BES has restored the mouth of the creek as it enters the Willamette River. 2) a 9 acre section of forest in the heart of the cemetery along a Stephens Creek tributary, which was completed two years later, in 2016, with the removal of more than 12 acres of invasive weeds and the installation of 17,000 native plants. This work (related to units 4 and 6 on the map) was completed with the help of an $8,547 OWEB Small Grant as well as funds from WMSWCD and River View Cemetery
Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr says, “We were very pleased to be able to assist River View on this important Portland natural area. By controlling invasive weeds on the land, we help promote the growth of native fish, plant species, and wildlife throughout the watershed.”
Cemetery Director David Noble says, “The cemetery hopes to establish a dedicated natural burial area so it makes sense for us to do what we can to restore and improve the area. Clients today are increasingly interested in using their burial plans to do something good for the planet. We were pleased to work with WMSWCD on a plan that allows us to create opportunities for stewardship of this special natural area in the heart of our city.”