|Volume 16, Issue 6||
Keeping Cedar Mill clean and green is our job!
Many of Cedar Mill’s residents moved here from places where cities take care of public landscape and roadside maintenance. But we don’t live in a city! Cedar Mill is an Urban Unincorporated Area of Washington County. While the county does offer limited services, resources just aren’t there to look after the hundreds of miles of roadside and median vegetation. Lower property taxes in the UUAs mean that residents need to step up to clean up.
The county’s “Adopt-a-Road” and “Adopt-a-Landscape” programs provide an opportunity for community groups, families, churches, service organizations, schools, businesses, and other groups to pick up litter along county roadsides or to maintain landscaped areas in county road medians. Adopting groups agree to adopt a stretch of county road for at least two years; pick up litter or do landscape maintenance at least twice a year; use safety vests and traffic safety signs during each clean-up; and have a representative sign an agreement on behalf of the entire group.
The county helps to select a road and evaluate it for safety; lends participating groups safety vests and traffic safety signs; provides plastic trash bags and safety training materials; picks up filled trash bags and removes any large, heavy or hazardous materials; and erects two signs at the adopted road site recognizing the group for its efforts. More details are available on the county web page.
Earlier this year, we noticed that there were signs still up for groups that had disbanded, and several places that didn’t seem to be getting the needed attention. We learned that the program had a new coordinator who was working to update the records.
The map shows roads that the county thinks have active groups, but at least one, Catlin Gabel School’s segment of Barnes Rd., is no longer active—it was a student project and the student graduated. If you have noticed a lack of maintenance along a road you travel on, and have a group that might be interested, please contact the program and let them know. Roads not marked on the map might be eligible for a project, also. Visit the page and call or click the email link at the bottom to inquire.
Knights of Columbus of St. Pius X Catholic Church maintains Saltzman between Cornell and Burton. We spoke with Mike Haney, Grand Knight, who said, “We are a men’s fraternity, and our mission is charity. Many of us are older, so we wanted something we could do to give back to the community. Tom Davis leads the program for us.”
The Chetana Foundation is a non-profit based in Portland, started in 2016 by local community members of Indian origin with a mission to spread happiness through 'sangha seva' (Sanskrit word for 'selfless service to community'). “Cornell Road adoption is one such event. In April, a team of around 20 Chetana volunteers removed trash from the road starting from Highway 26 to Murray Boulevard. We joined hands on a rainy day and spent several hours of this early Sunday morning clearing all non-degradable trash on both sides of the road. Cornell Road cleaning has always been an exciting event for us. At the end of the day, we go home contented that we have done something for the community,” said Sujan Adusumilli, one of Chetana's active volunteers. Chetana has also applied to work on Saltzman from Bayonne to Burton, since the “Saltzman Solutions” group has disbanded. Learn more about this group on their Facebook page.
The Cedar Mill Business Association conducted their “Cornell Cleanup” sessions in the spring and fall along the medians in the downtown area for many years, led by local attorney Dean Shade. Dwindling participation and changes in leadership meant that it didn’t get done this spring. The Board met earlier this month and agreed to renew its participation. Jennifer Oulds, of Bethany Massage, is leading the volunteer effort. She says they’ll do a formal event next fall (and will be seeking community members to help!) but a few Board members are determined to get out soon to take care of the worst spots. Thanks!
The county maintains some areas, such as the median that was created and landscaped during the Saltzman Road improvement project. But “aesthetic” maintenance is a low priority for the county, so it took quite a long time for them to come out this spring, and by then the mass of weeds had flowered and set seeds, so it’s going to be a mess in the fall and also next spring. We’re sure the county would be happy to have a local group take on the maintenance of that median! In fact, a couple of years ago, neighbors were complaining on NextDoor about how bad it was looking, and a few folks just got out there and dealt with it. Safety is a concern, and the county would prefer that the work be done through the program.
Todd Watkins, Operations and Maintenance Division manager, explains, “Washington County performs “landscape maintenance” and “vegetation management.” County crews, contracted services, and Community Service crews perform landscape maintenance. This work generally occurs in the urban area where landscaping in the right-of-way has been installed as part of a capital project. Vegetation management is performed by county crews and generally occurs in the rural area to prevent vegetation from encroaching into the right-of-way interfering with sight distance, traffic signs, drainage features and the roadway itself. Annually, the county’s vegetation management program costs about $2 million, the Community Service Program costs about $415,000 and the contracted services costs about $250,000.”
The Adopt-a-Road program is paid for through the Road Fund, and costs about $10,000 per year. The bulk of that comes from the use of county employees to provide flagging services and traffic control for certain Adopt-a-Landscape locations with center medians. Administrative support—managing the clean-up schedules, fielding questions from prospective groups—and other work—assessing road corridors for viability, maintaining the clean-up equipment (i.e. trash pick-up tools, vests, signs, etc.), and debris disposal account for the rest.
Watkins continues, “Adopt-a-Road and Adopt-a-Landscape programs are not limited to the urban area. In fact, 83.1 of the 156.6 miles of Adopt-a-Road locations are in the rural area. The bulk of the Adopt-a-Landscape locations are urban with 5.2 miles in the urban area and 0.2 miles in the rural area.
“Washington County uses the Road Maintenance Priority Matrix and annual Road Maintenance Program as the primary guidance for road maintenance activities. In general, the focus is on structural (i.e. pavements, bridges, culverts, etc.) and functional (i.e. roadside ditches, catch basins, traffic signs, pavement markings, etc.) features, with aesthetic elements being a secondary priority.
“For some neighborhoods, the aesthetic value is important enough to the residents that they take it upon themselves to maintain the landscaping to a higher standard. When center medians are involved, the county supports these groups by providing flaggers and traffic control when the volunteer groups are working in the medians.
“Additionally, there are areas around the county where local residents, businesses and other organizations maintain the landscape adjacent to their properties and/or businesses. Performing landscape work in the right-of-way does not require a permit as long as the work does not interfere with the flow of traffic. If traffic control is needed, then a Right-of-Way permit is required.”
“In general, landscape maintenance will be a lower priority than structural and functional elements of the right-of-way. However, the county recognizes the value of this and balances limited resources with other competing interests. ‘Limited resources’ does not always mean just a lack of money. Staffing levels are low, and the demand for basic services for roadways is high, stretching crews to the limit. Additionally, contracted services are difficult to secure because of a shortage of project managers and technicians to develop and administer contracts.
We asked about how the program handles groups that no longer participate. Watkins says, “If a group does not comply with the terms of the program, its name is removed from the sign. Generally, a group’s agreement is terminated if they do not have at least two clean-ups per year. LUT is working with several delinquent groups. Before terminating an agreement, LUT gives groups an opportunity to meet their commitments. If they cannot, then termination is considered.”
There are several ways the county promotes the Adopt-a-Road/Adopt-a-Landscape program. Signs are installed along roads that are eligible for adoption. Often these locations were previously adopted but then the group’s name was removed. The message on the sign says, “ADOPT THIS ROAD 503-846-7623.” LUT’s Ambassador Program promotes the program when staff attends civic events and other public venues. In addition, when residents call for landscape services, staff tells them about the Adopt-a-Road and Adopt-a-Landscape programs. If they are interested, they are referred to the program coordinator.
Cedar Mill News
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