Goat Island is home to native deer and heron rookeries. It is also home to invasive blackberries and ivy which seek to capture the island for themselves. This long piece of land sits abandoned were the Willamette and Clackamas rivers meet. It was also the place were eNRG Kayaking and Cascadia Kayaking met for the first time sharing the unified goal of restoring the natural habitat while educating others. Last year, eNRG Kayaking cleared trails and created a base camp for future operations culminating in a family camping trip kayaking down the Clackamas whitewater and up to Willamette Falls. This year, on May 19, a group of volunteers spend two hours clearing trails by removing trash and invasive plants – a project to be continued throughout the summer. As the ivy was cut away from dying trees, we realized we uncovered a project far greater than anyone could have imagined. What replaced the blackberries and ivy were trails for nature tours and campsites to teach others how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. Additionally, we realized this multi-year project was not just for adults – but a platform to educate youth to the wonders and concerns of our planet.
Why would anyone volunteer for this daunting task in the first place? Sean Estrella, a member of Cascadia Kayaking, stated, “I joined this project to improve the condition of this island and for the benefit of the community. Not just for the people but also for the wildlife that calls this island home.”
Emily Hooker, another member, agreed with this mission of helping the heron rookeries and turning the island into a resource, not a burden. “It seems like various agencies have been avoiding caring for it for decades because it’s such a monumental task to get the invasives under control, but it really could be an amazing spot to enjoy wildlife, paddling and ‘backcountry’ camping, all right there on Portland’s doorstep.” The close proximity to Portland provides a great stepping stone for future outdoor excursions – home to a living, beating heart within the carcass of a city.
“I particularly love that eNRG is taking kids out and showing them how to camp responsibly and to respect nature,” Hooker commented with regards to the trash she’s seen while visiting other trails and waterways. “It’s really nice to know that someone’s out there helping break that cycle.” While eNRG already brings kid camps out to the island to enjoy its beauty, we want to share its possibilities with people of all ages by promoting considerate overnight trips through canoe camping classes. Additionally, nature tours provide a means to educate locals on what species are native and which ones are invasive.
While this project is just getting started, another endeavour that’s just begun is Cascadia Kayaking, a paddling group that has banded together to make a positive impact between each other and the world around them. This is rooted in each member’s mindset towards caring for both the environment and the community in order to leave the world just a little better place. Hooker noted that when the group was formed last summer, “many… expressed a desire to be more active in the community rather than exist solely as yet another meet up paddling group.”
Goat Island is one step further towards the goals of both Cascadia and eNRG, a step that needs to be taken by many people over many years. So come join us at Goat Island and uncover the history and wildlife rooted within the island below the blanket of invasive plants. Let this living heart beat not just on the island, but throughout the entire city. And, in the words of Estrella, while “the distinct lack of goats is unsettling… it’s a wild and beautiful piece of our river that should not be overlooked.”