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Oak Creek at Oregon State University is a 13 square mile stream that meanders through farmland and pastures on the southern side of campus. Before leaving campus and meeting up with Marys River, Oak Creek flows through the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture, a research facility where students learn sustainable landscaping practices, organic vegetable gardening, and more.
For years, the Oak Creek watershed has housed a number of research projects for students from various departments on campus, on topics such as aquatic entomology, sediment transport, and wildlife restoration. Now, it's time for Oak Creek itself to become a project for students interested in learning about watershed stewardship, riparian restoration, and the benefits of landscaping with native plants.
Al Shay, the site manager for the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH), points out that the area of Oak Creek running alongside 35th Street hasn't been cared for in many years.
"It's an eyesore," he stated, pointing out the invasive blackberry bushes and English Ivy that have creeped into the basin. Luckily, the official owner of this section of Oak Creek, the city of Corvallis, is partnering with OSU to revitalize the area.
The first step, said Shay, was to tear out the invasive plants and brush growing in the creek's basin, which a group of 12 students working in the chilly, early morning rain on November 17 did. The students, working on a course objective for SOIL 205 Soil Science, also removed an old fence.
The debris generated from this cleanup will be used to build a berm near the Oak Creek Center, to prevent the neighboring meadow from draining mud and other detritus into the creek. A bioswale will also be constructed, providing a better way for water to drain into the creek.
Next, the plan is to plant native species that are better suited to Oak Creek's unique ecosystem. Plants will be selected that help exclude light (to help fight off invasive grasses) and that limit competition among one another.
"The plantings will be drought tolerant, sustainable, and will enrich the soil," explained Shay. "The vision for this area is functional first, attractive second. This is a great example of the new urban horticulture."
The City of Corvallis donated a $400 planting allowance to this project, and Sevenoaks Native Nursery in Albany will provide the group with a number of native plants to enhance the area.
"This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in learning more sustainable landscaping practices," said Shay. "As well as collaboration with a city to restore an area."