« Here, Fishie, Fishie | Main | found art + vending machine = pure genius »

June 14, 2005

give me those wide open bike paths

Saturday morning, I packed a lunch and headed out early to get away from the Grand Floral Parade. Probably the most well-attended Rose Festival event, the GFP always generates a huge mass of crowds, traffic, and general annoyance. My destination was the Columbia Slough Cycle the Wellfield event.

For most of the year, the City of Portland is supplied with water from the Bull Run Watershed. During the hottest summer months, the usual rainfall declines, as does the snowmelt from Mt. Hood. Supplemental water comes from a system of groundwater wells located on the far NE side of Portland, near the Columbia River. For this ride, people from the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council teamed up to lead a very educational ride through the wellfield area. We even got snacks along the way, free tote bags and t-shirts to commemorate the ride! I felt like a very pampered bike tourist. We also received a wealth of information about how the groundwater wells work, and how the local government works together with the community to protect the water supply from contamination.

First we visited a well site near the airport and learned about the geological composition of the aquifers used for groundwater wells. As we progressed along to subsequent stops, we learned about levees, the topology of the Columbia Slough, contamination from industrial and recreational sources, and how the business community is working to repair old contamination.

The farthest stop in our loop was at Blue Lake Regional Park. Blue Lake is an interesting part of the Columbia Slough system. The lake has no inlets, and is believed to be fed from springs at the bottom of the lake. Since the springs and the groundwater system are intimately connected, the water bureau keeps a close eye on the water quality of the lake. After an outbreak of illness last year, bubblers were put in to help circulate the water in the swimming area. Studies showed that the illness was caused by coliform bacteria, which probably originated from toddlers using the swimming area (eww). Now, signs are posted informing park visitors that children under 5 are not allowed in the lake. This is good news for other Blue Lake swimmers, as well as the groundwater system.

To close our loop, we rode on the Marine Drive bike path right along the Columbia. All in all, a terrific ride, and we only got rained on twice! I've posted a small gallery with more pictures from Cycle the Wellfield 2005.

Posted by mara at June 14, 2005 12:23 PM