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Environmental justice tour of Portland, Feb. 3, 2018

Looking southwest from Willamette Boulevard just east of the University of Portland. Mocks Bottom is in the foreground, Swan Island beyond that, and the West Hills of Portland in the background. Feb. 3, 2018.


Luna and I had a fun time yesterday participating in Youth for a Livable Planet’s Environmental Justice Tour of Portland. At four locations on the east side of the city, we learned something about key environmental, social, and demographic changes in the city over the past 15,000+ years. We started at the Moda Center with a grounding in deep geologic history and the history of the Chinookan and Kalapyan peoples. Hopping-on the MAX Yellow Line, we alighted to the Albina Neighborhood, where we got an overview of the history of peoples of color in Oregon broadly and Portland particularly. Vanport was our third stop on the tour, where a representative of Portland Harbor Community Coalition spoke in depth about the creation (1943) and catastrophic dissolution (1948) of Vanport. The fourth station was at the University of Portland, where we had lunch and learned more about the Portland Harbor Community Coalition’s mission “elevating the most-impacted groups (Native Americans, African-Americans/Black, immigrants, and houseless) in the billion dollar federal cleanup of the eleven mile Willamette River ‘Superfund’ site, Portland Harbor.”

This was the second of three such tours the group has planned during the current academic year. This was my first time participating. I did so to have a fun, educational time with Luna and to meet the organizers. I also wanted to get a feel for the structure and content of the tour so I might prepare materials and contribute to the next one, planned for April.



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Field trip to the former Boise Cascade Mill in Salem, OR

To investigate and understand better historical landscapes, in September 2017 I took a field trip to Salem, Oregon, to discover what visible evidence might remain of the pulp and paper mill that used to exist in downtown Salem.

Oregon Pulp and Paper Mill, 1949, 2012.049.0115

Aerial view (from the southwest) of the Oregon Pulp and Paper (later Boise Cascade) mill in Salem, 1949. Pringle Creek runs under the mill and railroad bridge at center, carrying untreated effluents into Willamette Slough, and then left (north) into the Willamette River. By the early 1970s, effluents were retained in ponds on Minto Island, west of the mill just beyond the frame at the bottom of the image. Willamette Heritage Center, P 2012.049.0115.

The mill began operations in 1920 as the Oregon Pulp and Paper Company, under the holding company Columbia River Paper Company. In 1962 the Boise Cascade Corporation took over. The mill ceased operations in 2007. In 2015, the South Block Apartments opened on the former mill site.

Read the rest of the entry to see my photos and learn a bit more . . .

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Blogging the ASEH 2010 (pt. 1): Willamette River Cruise

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on March 23, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary. There are also comments to the original post at this link.]

Hawthorne Bridge. 
Image taken while descending gangplank to the tour boat.

This is my first post discussing my experience at the 2010 American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) conference, held here in Portland from March 10-14. This post will focus on the Willamette River cruise on on Wednesday, March 10, from noon to about 4:00 p.m.

I’ll commence with an admission: I spent about two years writing a thesis on the topic of Willamette River pollution, and I grew up on the Oregon coast, but until this river cruise I had not been on the river! Scandalous!! In some sense, however, this doesn’t really mean anything — after all, how many present-day historians of the Civil War were on the field at Gettysburg in the midst of the battle? Nonetheless, there is something to be said for experiencing the actual site(s) upon which unfolded aspects of one’s historical research.

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I missed the boat!

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on Sep. 5, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary.]

On the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 11, the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group (CAG) held its monthly meeting on a boat touring the Willamette in Portland’s harbor. CAG member Jim Robison invited me to this tour in July, while I was out of the state on vacation, and I replied that I would certainly be there.

I had taken a tour of the Willamette this past April, and had earlier biked along the Columbia Slough. I was looking forward to another opportunity to experience the river directly. So, I wrote the tour information down in my planner and settled into another week of vacation in sunny Nebraska . . .

. . . and then I got back to Portland, dove in to the remainder of the Summer quarter with my students, and didn’t think about that tour until week after it occurred.

I got wrapped up in the final week of the Summer quarter, which was the week of the CAG harbor tour, and the date simply slipped my mind. After the quarter was over, I found myself thinking about how fun the upcoming harbor tour would be, so I checked my planner and realized that I had missed the boat!

Let this be a lesson to myself that I can’t juggle 10,000 things without the benefit of my planner, and my planner isn’t any use to me unless I actually refer to it consistently. The cost of this oversight is missing-out on opportunities.

So, having expressed this mea culpa, let’s get to some details of this harbor tour . . .

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