There are few things more amazing this time of year than viewing the hustle and bustle of nature renewing itself. One place I enjoy walking during springtime is Dirksen Nature Park, Tigard OR. Within this place a thriving ecology of plant, tree, insect, fish, bird and animal co-exist and dependent on the fertile wetland resources that sustain its ecosystem. It is a perfect place for children to learn the importance and value of today’s conservation and stewardship efforts and practices. Which they can easily learn by parents planning a camas day adventure in April or early May to view camas plants in full bloom.
Many know throughout history there are multiple examples of cultures who gave thanks for bountiful harvests, wildlife and clean drinking water which built communities. Like present day, people of the past understood what environmental stewardship and conservation management was long before it was coined in 1887. “Environmental stewardship refers to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. Aldo Leopold (1887–1949) championed environmental stewardship based on a land ethic “dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it” (Wikepedia 2018).
To begin your day’s adventure in the park – walk across Fanno Creek Bridge, located off of Tiedemann Street adjacent to Fowler elementary school and track parking lot. After crossing, walk past the baseball diamond and stay on the paved trail until you reach the second field beyond the forest stand. The fence surrounding the oak savanna field was repurposed from evasive tree species fell during clearing in preparation of restoring the land to its former self. Learn more about Dirksen Nature Park and environmental benefits of this type of restoration at http://www.tigard-or.gov/community/dirksen_park.php
From this vantage point direct your focus to the distant bluish-purple camas flower patches – some of these long-stemmed flowers may still be in bloom early June. Then share the following information with your children. There were indigenous people long ago that relied on this perennial wetland food source. “One of the most important root crops for the Plateau tribes was camas, which provided a major source of carbohydrates for their diet. Camas is a lily-like plant whose bulb can be fire-baked to make a sweet and nutritious staple. In some places in the Northwest, camas was so common that non-Indian travelers would mistake the plant’s blue flowers for distant lakes” (Ojibwa 2011).
Thereafter continue your adventure by heading back to the first open field. Head toward the large repurposed tree trunk on the ground. Explain to your children for every year that pass a new ring is added and that increases tree diameter size. Have them count the rings. How old was this tree before it was cut down? They won’t be able to count all the rings but will understand it had a long life – whose majestic existence reseeded many a forests; provided food and shelter for insects, birds and squirrels and eventually became lumber to build homes and heat dwelling space.
Continue walking straight ahead or westerly along the forest edge. Turn right onto the bark chipped trail and walk toward the open mid-field observation pad. You’ll immediately notice the stunning beauty and tranquilly of this place and able to view camas plants up close when in full bloom. This is a great place to have lunch and take pictures alongside the little bronze critter statuettes hanging out around the seated deck area. Other stories can shared here, e.g., how people harvested and separated the large camas bulbs while replanting the small ones to ensure future bountiful harvests.
This is a perfect example of how to conserve natural resources to ensure a sustainable food source. Also a fact not know by many during the initial oak savanna restoration phase, “over 30,000 Camas bulbs were planted in Dirksen Nature Park in 2015 and bloomed for the first time in 2017. … ‘Restoration specialists were caught by surprise when a large bloom of native bulbs emerged that were lying dormant and had been out-competed by non-native pasture grass (COT Dirksen Park Web Page 2018).”
Continue walking westerly toward the River Keepers educational center on the same path. Just before those buildings direct your children’s focus to the northern forest edge. See if your family can spot the blue lake of camas flowers looking south – next to the large old oak tree [Tip – have them use the picture in this article to identify the spot]. To continue your adventure back track to the place you counted the tree rings. Then head toward the outdoor fitness station donated by the Tigard Rotarians. Get a little exercise activity if you’d like. Here you can emphasis the importance of keeping the body fit through healthy exercise activity [another teaching point].
Lastly enter the woods behind the fitness equipment – stay on the bark chipped trail. Within 100’ you’ll access an elevated oak savanna manmade platform. Here you can observe an active ecology encircled by wetland during the rainy season – view, hear and feel nature all around. Thereafter – end a perfect day of educational adventure for a day’s play of Frisbee, baseball, croquet, soccer, etc., in the large grass field.
Plan to make a fun, fit and educational adventure for the whole family to enjoy and imagine what it must have been like to live in this place and depend upon it for your survival. And why conservation, stewardship and restoration of land and clean drinking water is important to preserve and manage for the sake of nature’s ecosystems and our wellbeing. Be sure to get lots of pictures of your special day in the Park. If you’d like to share those family memories on our DareToWalk Facebook page we’d be honored to share your Camas Day Adventure with our followers.
Good health to you and your family.
Marc Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET., is a member of the Tigard City Council. He is a strong proponent of City involvement in providing recreational opportunities for its residents. 2018 Copy right. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., “To learn more about MirrorAthlete Fit