K and I spent Thursday afternoon fixing up our bike tires: we had a flat on my bike and the bike trailer. Since he’s really too big for the bike trailer now, that one had been sitting there flat for several months, since he usually rides the tag-along bike now. But without my own bike’s two wheels, we’re a little bit home-bound, or have to get creative with the car sharing! We also put the jogging wheel on the Burley bike trailer so that it’s not the wimpy little walking wheel on the attachment that hooks to the bike. The jogging attachment has a sturdier wheel, so it works better for a five-year-old passenger.
The next day, Friday, K wanted to try out the trailer/stroller, since he hadn’t been in it for a while. We’ve been doing Friday hikes and walks, so we decided to do a nice local walk to Hoover Park.
I packed up a lunch and we walked to Hoover Park, which is a canyon park in downtown Newberg, located where 99W splits into two one-way roads. It has a nice playground up at the top on River St, so we started out there. You’ll recall that this was the day it reached almost 90°F, and arriving at about noon, all the equipment was rather hot! We played for a bit anyway, running around and climbing things, since the slide and other things to sit on were too hot. It’s a nice playground, though.
Then we went down into the park. Hess Creek winds through, with a couple bridges spanning the water. There is also a disc golf course, but we didn’t play this time. I hadn’t spent much time in Hoover Park for quite a few years. The park used to be kind of trashy, and known as a place to go in town to do drugs or underage drinking at night, since it’s down in a canyon with quite a few trees. We picked up several beer and soda cans, so it’s probably used in a similar way, still. (What a great way to honor our most famous former resident, President Herbert Hoover!)
During the day, though, the park is pretty nice. It’s a good escape from the heat, since it’s down in a nice hollow with trees and a creek to keep it cool. It’s relatively quiet, even though there’s a highway driving by. There weren’t many people, but that may be due to the fact that most people aren’t crazy enough to venture out at midday when it’s 90°!
I really wish the creek was in a healthier condition. This is the same creek that flows through George Fox University, and thanks to plant services director Clyde Thomas, a great deal of creek restoration has happened just upstream. He’s eradicated non-native plants and added native ones that help decrease erosion, and that also help filter the water that reaches the creek in order to keep it as clean as possible.
Once it goes under the highway and reaches Hoover Park, however, it’s another matter. There is unfortunately quite a bit of trash in the creek, and I could see pieces of glass at points. I will say that the fact that I can see to the bottom of the creek is an improvement from prior years, however! In the past, I saw signs that said, “Danger, raw sewage,” so I didn’t let K play in the water even though I didn’t see those signs this time. I assume that’s because as sewer systems get overloaded in the event of large amounts of rain, sometimes they get backed up and flushed out into the creeks and rivers. Also, Hess Creek runs directly into the waste water treatment pools, so I’m not sure what that means about its cleanliness. Does it go through them and get cleaned out, and then they put clean water into the rest of the creek that flows out the other side? Or does it go underneath? I don’t know.
I do know that when I was gathering information for my environmental history project on the area, I heard from someone who grew up here about 80 years ago that he used to fish in Hess Creek and pull out good-sized trout and other fish. K and I didn’t see any wildlife other than water skippers, although I know that one can catch crawdads upstream. One could likely catch crawdads in this portion, too, although I’m not sure I would eat them.
Hess Creek is also bounded by rock walls for most of the length of the park. I assume this is because people wanted to decrease the chances of erosion in order to make the creek fit neatly into the space allotted for it and not wash out bridges. While this is nice in some ways, it doesn’t do much for the ecology of the creek. It keeps natural habitats from forming, and it makes the water move through much more quickly. At this point in Chehalem Valley’s history, maybe that’s a good thing—we get plenty of rain, and this park floods enough as it is. But with the snowpack not sticking around as long and with glaciers retreating, we’re going to need to pay attention to ways to get water to stay around for a bit and continue to provide its services to our fair city, rather than rushing off to rejoin the ocean.
K and I walked the length of Hess Creek in the park, and wandered back and forth on the little trails that crisscross the upper portions of the eastern and western slopes of the park. We went back into the southeast corner to see if there was a way to keep following the creek, since on the Newberg trail map it looks like there’s going to be a trail there at some point. I’m excited for that trail, because it looks like it’s going to eventually follow Hess Creek for quite a ways until it meets up with Spring Brook, but it’s not there yet.
I recently realized how little I know of Hess Creek, though it’s the main creek running through the area of Newberg in which I live. I know snatches of it, fragmented, like the landscape. I can picture in my mind places where the creek goes under roads, but I had no idea where its source was, or where it emptied into the Willamette River.
Thanks to Google Maps, I can see that it starts up on the side of the Chehalem Mountains at Oliver Spring and flows from roughly northeast to southwest, then continues south and bends east just past Hoover Park, flowing through the waste water treatment plant, and joining up with Spring Brook after it goes under Highway 219 (St Paul Highway), and then flows into the Willamette River.
Confusingly, it appears that there is a Hess Creek in Dundee as well, flowing just to the east of Crabtree Park and up into the Dundee Hills. Since John H. Hess was one of the earliest European American settlers to take advantage of the Donation Land Claims in the Newberg area, I suppose it’s not surprising that things are named after him, except that his claim was in the area of Newberg that does not now include Hess Creek—it was west of Newberg’s downtown, starting at Main St. Hoover Park would have been in the Rogers Donation Land Claim (for whom Rogers Landing is named). There was another Hess, however: Joseph Hess, whose Donation Land Claim was northwest of present-day Newberg, off of North Valley Rd in the Tangen and Stone Rd area, which looks like it would be in the region of Chehalem Creek, or one of the other creeks in that area that is unnamed on Google Maps. I didn’t study him (I was researching the Deskins Land Claim, which included the northern portion of downtown Newberg and all of the main campus of George Fox University, bounded by present-day Main St, First St, Villa Rd, and Sierra Vista). Therefore, I’m not sure exactly where Joseph Hess’s property was, but he built a flour mill on a creek. If he lived northwest of Newberg, it couldn’t really have been in Dundee, since that is southwest of Newberg. Nor would it have likely been on the creek we call Hess Creek in Newberg. I’m not sure of the history of the naming of Newberg’s Hess Creek, or if people thought the one with the mill and the one running through town were the same creek even though they don’t meet. Or maybe the course of the creeks have changed in the last 150 years, and they were part of the same creek at the time, with Oliver Spring sourcing a branch of it, and another creek running through Joseph Hess’s property joined the current Hess Creek somewhere along the way.
At any rate, I realized how little I know about this area’s waterways! This creek runs right through town, and I had never really thought about where it comes from or where it goes. In this little valley, bounded by the Chehalem Mountains, the Red Hills, and the Willamette River, this creek forms a good portion of the health of our mini-watershed. Its spring water runs through Newberg, and after just a few miles running through our community’s land, I do not feel safe letting my kids play in it. What does this say about the way we are caring for this space? How might we care for it in a way that would be an asset to our community, rather than simply as a way for water to drain away? What sustenance might we give to and receive from this little body of water that might nourish our community, body and spirit?
I leave you with an image of a dragonfly from our backyard, near our pond. We didn’t see any dragonflies in Hoover Park, while they are all over the place at our house. They like areas with still or slow-moving water, so a creek should be a good place for them. I hope that our community’s creeks can be a place that provides excellent habitat for beneficial insects and other creatures in the future.