Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: North Valley Friends Trail

IMG_20160515_163139904We visit the North Valley Friends Trail often! It’s a great place to go to be outside without having to drive far from Newberg (or at all, if you walk or bike there). It’s just north of Newberg, directly north of the Foothills neighborhoods on College St. The trail is about 3/4 of a mile if you walk it in a circle, or 1 mile if you walk it in a figure eight through the parking lot. Pets are allowed on a leash. The trail is paved. It also works for bikes and other wheeled , although you have to be aware of pedestrians.

Pole & LabyrinthThe trail also has some great peace elements, as well as exercise stations. The peace elements include a beautiful labyrinth that’s 65 feet in diameter, peace poles saying: “May peace prevail on Earth,” in English, Spanish, and a number of other languages, and the peace poles also have quotes from peacemakers. Benches are spaced around the trail for quiet reflection. Exercise elements are spread around the trail including a balance bar, a push-up station, and other elements, designed to create an outdoor circuit training experience.


IMG_20160515_172149804_HDRIf you’re interested, you can also download and utilize a series of booklets for self-guided tours around the trail, stopping at each peace pole to reflect on the peacemakers whose quotes grace the poles, other thoughts on peace, the 12 steps of addiction recovery, or poems of peace. The website for the trail also has thoughts about walking the labyrinth, and walking the labyrinth with children. There’s also a prayer wall tucked in the southwest corner of the trail. You can bring a tiny paper and write your prayer on it and tuck it into one of the cracks, like a mini-wailing wall, or you can add a rock to it like a cairn.

K and I went on a walk around the trail a while back, but I forgot to write it up. It was drizzling a little bit, but we still had a good time. We brought a few snacks, and sat on a bench to enjoy them. It’s just the right length for a five-year-old to enjoy the “hike” and be out in nature, but not to get too tired or bored. I loved having time to be with him and hear what he was thinking about and noticing.

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My kids and I like to walk the trail, or run it, stop by the labyrinth and race around it, and look for bugs and other life. Right now there are many wildflowers blooming in the fields. At other times of year, there are blackberries and plumbs to munch. The trail encircles the property of North Valley Friends Church and the future home of Veritas School, and it will eventually also have ball fields for Chehalem Parks & Recreation District, and therefore the trail was a cooperative effort between these organizations (though the peace elements are all a gift from the Friends to the community). All are welcome to enjoy the trail!

Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Champoeg Nature Play Area

This summer, I’ve invited others to join me on Friday “hikes” or nature excursions around our small region. Part of this has to do with my church’s current emphasis on getting to know our watershed so that we can better take care of the space around us. We can only love places that we know, and so we’re getting to know our region better. Also, I’ve invited other friends who have expressed interest in these posts about “outdoors with kids in Chehalem Valley.” I definitely want to give kids the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore our region!

Last week, school got out at lunch time, so we left for Champoeg shortly thereafter. It was a great way to kick off the summer. I met my friends in the Oak Grove parking lot and we walked over to the new nature play area. Having thrown out this invitation to everyone at my church, I got to meet new friends, got to know some others better. It was fun to have an excuse to stand around chatting while our kids played.

Our kids LOVED this play area! There is a large sand pit for digging and creating waterways, a water pump that pumps water through the logs you see in the photos (below), and lots of elements to climb on. There are cute little stick huts made from living branches, so eventually they will leaf out and form enclosed, living huts.

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Here are some details:

  • Champoeg costs $5/car for a day pass, so it’s a little expensive in terms of visiting a playground. Instead, you can purchase a 12-month pass for all Oregon State Parks for $30, or a 24-month pass for $50, so if you really like the play area and think you’ll visit more than six times a year, get an annual pass! Then you can go to other state parks for “free,” too.
  • There’s no parking near the nature play area because it’s in the RV camping section of the park, so unless you’re camping there, you’re not supposed to park there. We parked in the Oak Grove parking lot (over by the disc golf course), which gave us a nice half-mile walk over to the play area. The walk is mainly on the paved bike trail (or across parking lots), so you can bring a stroller. My kids brought their scooters, or you could bring bikes. There are also many trails for walking and biking, so you can make a day of it and do more than just visit the play area.
  • Since the nature play area is so new, it’s not yet on the map, so see the map below for the location of play area and the path we took to get there.
  • There’s sand and water, so you’ll want to bring a towel, have your kids wear swim clothes, and/or bring a change of clothes.


Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Magness Tree Farm

IMG_20160610_114030391Well, sometimes when you go hiking with kids, you have to admit your failures…at least if you’re me! So, we went hiking with my friend Lotus and K’s friend N to Magness Memorial Tree Farm (which, by the way, is not a tree farm, but is a demonstration forest with hiking trails, a covered picnic area, and several cabins, in addition to some great trails). Magness is about 15-20 minutes from Newberg, just east of town on Parrett Mountain.

IMG_20160610_112829669_HDRSince I’d been there several times before, I thought, “Piece of cake,” and didn’t really worry too much about maps. It was just the four of us, and we were happily wandering through the woods, exploring every side trail to the creek, some of us throwing rocks and sticks (guess which ones?), munching on wild berries, and eating snacks we brought.


IMG_20160610_112729847Usually when we’ve gone to Magness before, we’ve gotten to the bridge along the Nagel Loop and gone left and done the Woods Tour and/or the Archibald Hike, including the fire lookout, but the boys wanted to go right because it went by the stream. I thought, “Sure, it loops around, so we’ll just do it in the opposite direction.”

Well, somehow we missed that important juncture where we would have stayed on the Woods Tour, and instead chose the Heater Trail. We kept thinking it would just loop around eventually, but then we finally found ourselves coming out on a road. IMG_20160610_122751033Thank goodness for GPS on my phone, because it told me which road we were on and which way to go to get back! We did eventually find the trail again, but not until after it poured on us while we were “hiking” along a paved road, five-year-olds not particularly happy about the whole thing.

IMG_20160610_115505548The Heater Trail is apparently not very well used, and was somewhat overgrown in places. The trail was clearly evident, but for kids, there were tall grasses and blackberry vines swinging into their faces.

Three kinds of ripe berries: salmon berries, blackberries, and thimble berries

We found a small garter snake, and K and I stopped to look at it while Lotus and N walked on across a little bridge. Then, when K and I went to follow them across the bridge, we heard a bunch of angry bees. K stopped and started freaking out about the bees, and I said, “Keep going! Keep going!” I finally picked him up and carried him past the bees and couldn’t figure out why he was still crying, until I realized he’d gotten stung. Ouch! We later found some nice, cool, creek mud to put on it, and Lotus, being a nurse, helpfully had a full first aid kit with her.

You can’t see it very well, but there’s a tiny garter snake.

This is probably something I should carry with me from now on, now that I think about it! She whipped it out and put on a Band-aid.

IMG_20160610_124426128Drama also ensued regarding special sticks. (Note sticks in hand in the majority of these photos.) We had to go back several times after the boys forgot their sticks and refused to go on without them. This was after the bee incident, and during the walking-on-the-road incident, so we humored them.

After we finally made it back to our car and drove home, the boys had apparently forgotten the more negative parts of the journey, and were saying they’d had a great time. I hope I didn’t ruin hiking forever for N!IMG_20160610_125305362

Magness Tree Farm is a beautiful location, and you should definitely go there. It is (usually) very kid-friendly and a wonderful place to hike and explore. They also do outdoor education, and they have little cabins, and it looks like you can book them and/or the picnic area for events, even weddings. (I went to a lovely wedding there once!) I’m not sure if you can just rent a cabin as a family, but it could be a fun alternative to Champoeg’s yurts if you want to stay in an outdoorsy location in the area.




Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Trappist Abbey

IMG_20160603_125017907I got a little behind in posting anything, but K and I have still been doing our weekly hikes in the area! We’ve been hiking with other people lately, which has been fun.

I’d always heard about the trails at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I’ve driven by there countless times, but I hadn’t been there. We decided to try it out. Angelina and her kids, M and L, joined us. It only takes about 15 minutes to drive there from Newberg, out highway 240 and then cutting over on Kuehne Rd and Abbey Rd like you’re going to Lafayette.

IMG_20160603_124235061I probably would NOT highly recommend this site for young kids, although if you were just out there as an adult on a nice, contemplative retreat, it is lovely. Although the people we checked in with were very welcoming and nice, we felt like we had to be kind of quiet in parts of the trail (there’s a sign asking people to be quiet until they’re farther away from the main area), so we felt kind of nervous the whole time, like maybe we were ruining people’s quiet time.

They gave us a map (I couldn’t find any online before we went), but it was kind of confusing, so we thought we were on a different trail for most of the hike. Also, there was a TON of poison oak, so we had to keep to the middle of every trail and make sure the kids didn’t brush up against any. We made it, though! No outbreaks in subsequent days.


We did the trail I’ve marked in a blue line, in a counter-clockwise direction. (I believe the top of the map is east.) There are some trail markers at places, but not at every intersection. Also, we found that the place that says “¶12,” “Quarry,” and has a circle with squiggly lines, is in fact a pond, not a quarry. The quarry must be elsewhere along those dotted-line trails. The map has lots of A, B, C, and other markings that one would think would refer to a key or legend of some sort, but the other half of this paper didn’t have a key, it just had some info about the abbey.

IMG_20160603_115914860That said, the network of trails was very nice. There were some areas that were like small gravel roads, and some that were more like forest trails. There were different types of scenery, from agricultural fields to forests, oak savannah to creek beds. IMG_20160603_121237879I would definitely recommend going there as an adult, or with kids who are older and wouldn’t be quite so drawn to throwing rocks and sticks in the nice, contemplative water features and yelling at the top of their lungs, like my five-year-old is prone to do! We only explored a fraction of the trails available, so eventually I’d like to go back, once my kids are bigger or just with adults, and get farther into the back 40.

Despite the imperfections, we had a fun time! It was great to be outside on a warm day, smelling the smells of the late spring, hearing the birds and insects, feeling the different temperatures as we traversed different types of ecosystems, and enjoying the wonder of exploring a new place.

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Vernonia Lake

We spent some time yesterday at Vernonia Lake, which isn’t in the Chehalem Valley, but it’s fairly accessible to those of us living in the Chehalem Valley. I’ve always passed signs to Vernonia when on the way out Highway 26 toward Tillamook, just as the road begins to enter the Coast Range, but I hadn’t ever actually been to Vernonia. It’s a cute little town, and there are a number of trailheads between Highway 26 and Vernonia that we’d like to go back and explore on other trips. There’s also a bike path that goes from Banks out to Vernonia, and someday I’d love to take our bikes out to Banks and then bike the 21 miles to Vernonia as a family. (In our case, since we have to stop in Banks and charge our Nissan Leaf, this would make a lot of sense—except for the fact that the Leaf doesn’t do so well with hauling 4 bikes.) It’s called the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, and it’s a paved path following an old rail line.

Picnic next to Vernonia Lake, OR
Picnic next to Vernonia Lake, OR

On this trip, we visited Vernonia Lake. The weather presented us with a beautiful day for walking, fishing, picnicking, and enjoying the company of our family. We met my brother-in-law and his kids and my in-laws out there, and most of the crew went fishing while my mother-in-law and I walked around the lake. It has a paved .95-mile path around the small lake, and we circled it three-and-a-half times before some of the kids got bored in the boat, so we got our exercise in for the day.

Fishing on Vernonia Lake, OR
Fishing on Vernonia Lake, OR

The details:

  • From Newberg, it’s 51.4 miles
  • Parking: $5 cash (bring exact, or stop by the bank in town, but there’s not a way to make change)
  • No motors on boats, no swimming
  • Fishing: resident bass, crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead; stocked with rainbow trout (as with any fishing, requires a license)
  • Amenities: bathrooms, docks, wheelchair-accessible fishing platform, drinking fountain, small playground (two swings and short monkey bars), boat ramp, picnic tables, benches, access to hiking trails
  • Camping: you can hike in to a primitive campground, apparently, with water, fire pits, and restrooms. $10/tent per night
  • Birding: marsh-loving songbirds, as well as some larger birds such as osprey, hawks, turkey vultures, and bald eagles
Fishing on Vernonia Lake, OR
Fishing on Vernonia Lake, OR

The lake used to be the mill pond for a Douglas fir mill that closed down in 1957. It’s fed by what must be a branch of Rock Creek. It’s a beautiful little pond with cattails and lily pads. We saw small songbirds such as red-wing blackbirds (though their wings are decidedly orange, not red), swallows, starlings, and others I don’t know the names of. There are lots of ducks, and at this time of year, there were ducklings of all sizes. We also saw osprey, bald eagles, hawks, and turkey vultures circling above the lake and surrounding mountains. Be sure to bring binoculars! I got to see an osprey dive and catch a fish.


E and his same-age cousin enjoyed fishing and boating for a while, and then spent a while disturbing everyone else’s peace by noisily having a grand old time on the swing set.

K loved fishing! This was his first time fishing from a boat, I believe, and he could have sat there for hours more. He’s a water guy! Ever since he was little we’ve noticed he loves to swim and do anything relating to water, so he’s definitely going to be a fisher-person like his dad.

After walking for a while, I supervised kiddos at the playground by facing away from them, watching the water and birds, and reading a book. Although it wasn’t exactly quiet, in addition to the human noises I could hear birds and see the beauty of the water, mountains, trees, and other beings. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Bob & Crystal Rilee Park

IMG_20160520_132205638For our Friday adventure this week, K and I visited Bob & Crystal Rilee Park & Equestrian Trails, which is just east of Newberg on Parrett Mountain. According to the Chehalem Park & Recreation District blog, this has only been officially zoned as a park for a few months, although the purchase of the property and a sizable donation donation of land from the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation happened in early 2014. Apparently it’s been used as a network of trails known to horse people for years, but now it’s open to the public and is becoming a public park.

IMG_20160520_130135022_HDRThis time, I got my act together and invited a friend to join us, so we went with Angelina and her little L and M. We followed our map out to Rilee Park, and just like the directions say, the Google map takes one to the farmhouse. There’s a parking area a little ways prior to the farmhouse, which is called “Bob’s Corner.” We saw the CPRD sign and parked there and looked for the trailhead.

IMG_20160520_144651403I will say that although we did eventually find the trail, it was not without crossing the road, climbing over a locked gate, tromping through some weeds in what looked like it might sort of be a path, and walking over to the wooden sign whose words we could barely read, then trying to figure out from there which way the trail was, wading through an even more overgrown section including blackberry vines, and wandering a bit to try to figure out if the trail was going to be like this the whole way.

I will also mention that since this park is really new, the map is not that helpful. There are actually two maps, one that is closer in and has names of some trails but has no roads marked and does not label Bob’s Corner, and one that zooms out and gives a broader picture but is harder to follow. We had to kind of feel our way and experiment the whole time to figure out where we were and where we were going. There were trail markers along the way, but the maps did not always have the same names as the trail markers. In the maps below, I’ve circled Bob’s corner and I show the trail we ended up walking in red.

parrett_mt_horsetrails2 parrett_mt_horse_trails

13221599_10206231403532101_4335090877003343046_nThat said, once we found the trail, it was really fun! We just kind of paid attention to what direction we were going, and made sure to loop back around when we were ready. There is quite the network of trails out there, and it was so nice to only be a few miles from Newberg but to be out on a trail where we couldn’t usually hear road noise or construction or other human noises (besides our children, and airplanes, neither of which we can really escape).

13244814_10206231403292095_2963232364999070631_nThe section of trail we did was south from Bob’s Corner. We crossed the road and climbed over a gate, then turned slightly right and went downhill, then pretty much went straight downhill (south) for a while, turned west for a ways, and came back uphill. We were probably on the trail for an hour and a half, moseying and looking at centipedes and other points of interest along the way. We could hear many birdsongs.

IMG_20160520_140102744The trail was wooded, with green ground cover everywhere we looked. Besides not knowing exactly where we were going, this was a really relaxing and fun hike. We all agreed we want to go back!

13244900_10206231405132141_6997563357930227860_nThe boys had tons of fun picking up dirt and sticks. K gave me flowers for my hair. L wanted to stop and just look up at the trees. We named different plants, learned (luckily not by experience) not to touch stinging nettles, and kept an eye out for critters. Mostly we just saw centipedes, but also some birds and a squirrel. We also found a big snail shell, but it was no longer inhabited.

10173553_10206231403972112_8424645984276428797_nIt sounds like the City of Newberg is in the process of developing a master plan to decide specifically where the trails will go and what kind of events and activities will happen there. This is going to be a great resource for the Newberg community, and I’m grateful that it’s there. I’ll watch its development into a more user-friendly network of trails with interest and gratitude.


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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Hoover Park

new trailer bike-2
A photo of the whole setup from 4 years ago! E is in the middle and K is in the trailer. Now K is older than E probably was when the photo was taken! (Also, the black vehicle that sits in our driveway is now decidedly smaller…a Nissan Leaf.)

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.

Hoover Park, Newberg, OR
K in Hoover Park. He was not very excited to be my model that day!

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°!

trash in Hess Creek
K at Hoover Park. Note the trash in Hess Creek, behind him. This is his “How dare you take my picture” face!

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.

Hess Creek, Hoover Park, Newberg, OR
Hess Creek at the southeast corner of Hoover Park, where the current trail ends

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.