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Portland Metro Area Youth Win Student Video Contest for Clean Rivers

The River Starts Here launched the first annual Student Video Contest in 2020 and received an overwhelming response from participants and viewers who learned about our connection with local waterways. In this first year, local youth environmentalists passionate about telling their story responded to the call and helped create videos about how we each have a role in protecting rivers and streams. 

On June 6, 36 middle and high school student finalists from throughout the Portland Metro area shared videos to encourage clean water behaviors like reducing pesticide use, practicing Leave No Trace principles in natural areas and traveling by transit, bike and foot to reduce pollution. Expert judges from the film industry, governments and river organizations voted to select the winners for the best 55-second and 25-second videos. From June 6-19, students rallied friends and family to vote for them to win the People’s Choice Award for the most liked, commented, viewed and shared video. Over 4,000 community members watched student videos, which were viewed over 11,000 times. Viewers submitted over 1,800 likes and added hundreds of comments. Commenters shared their enthusiasm for these creative videos. 

“I always forget that everyday activities can be harmful to my community whether I intended it to or not, I will definitely remember the car wash part!” – Margo Flanagan

“This is the greatest public service announcement for keeping our waters clean I have ever seen.” – Robert Pirtle

The River Starts Here is proud to announce the contest winners.


Honorable Mentions:

The River Starts Here is excited to celebrate and honor these youth creators. Each winner will receive $500, be individually recognized by government leaders and have the opportunity to screen their video at the Portland EcoFilm Festival. Leaders at the River Starts Here are already looking forward to next year. 

“We had an incredible outpouring of youth who are passionate about protecting the health of our local rivers and streams. We saw so much creativity – from handmade animation, to funny movie spoofs, to impassioned calls for change. We cannot wait to continue supporting youth environmentalists in next year’s Student Video Contest” – The River Starts Here partner, Christa Britton

Partners from the River Starts Here coalition met to celebrate the Student Video Contest and finalize the winners.

The River Starts Here is a coalition of local governments working together to share how our everyday actions impact the health of local rivers and streams. 

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What’s Happening in Happy Valley Park?

Happy Valley artist Sarah Miller creates artwork to highlight how our everyday actions impact the health of rivers and streams.

The River Starts Here partner, Clackamas Water Environment Services, is partnering with the City of Happy Valley and Portraits in Prose, Ink. to educate the community on ways to protect our streams through ART! Local artist Sarah Miller is creating artwork at catch basins and manhole covers in the park to bring awareness to the impacts of stormwater on stream health and what residents can do in their daily lives to reduce these impacts.

In addition to the storm drain art, you can download the scavenger hunt and find all the painted catch basins in the park, and learn how to keep our streams healthy. Sarah has also created a banner for the off-leash dog park, reminding dog owners to clean up after their pets. You can also photograph friends and family members wearing dragonfly wings in front of the dragonfly wing mural on the outside wall of the restroom building! Post your photos to Instagram & Facebook and use the hashtags #ClackWES #ClackCo #cityofhappyvalley #portraitsinproseink Enjoy your park!

Learn more on Clackamas Water Environment Service’s website.

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2020 EMSWCD Yard Tour

Each year, our friends at East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) host a yard tour to showcase yards that support clean rivers and healthy wildlife. This year, the yard tour is going online!

A naturescaped yard with flowering Pacific Bleeding Heart, Redwood Sorrel and Wild Ginger.

Instead of our usual yard-visiting tour, EMSWCD is offering you all a chance to show us what’s going on in your landscapes. Share what environmentally-friendly practices and projects you are working on, see what others are doing in their space and get inspired to learn more.

The EMSWCD Virtual Yard Tour is a great opportunity to both share and explore creative naturescaped yards and gardens – all from the comfort of your home!

Browse through galleries of naturescaped yards here!

For example, you can share pictures and thoughts on:

  • Native plants as they start to leaf out and flower
  • How you’ve grouped your plants using “right plant, right place” (for example: sun-loving
    plants in sunny spots and water-loving plants in wet areas)
  • How you have created multiple canopy layers (trees, shrubs, groundcovers)
  • Rain gardens or other creative stormwater solutions
  • Ways you’re creating habitat for pollinators and other wildlife
  • Birdhouses or water features that invite birds to your yard
  • Natural ways you build healthy soil and get rid of pests without using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or other pesticides
  • Lessons and tips you learned from our free workshops
  • Weeds and invasive plants you are working to remove without the use of synthetic chemicals
  • Stormwater issues such as flooding and erosion

Here’s how you can join in:

Red Flowering Currant blooming in a backyard.
  1. Connect with us via one or all of our social media pages:
  2. Share photos, thoughts and comments as often as you like! (Please keep posts related to Multnomah County, Oregon and EMSWCD’s mission to help people care for land and water)
  3. If you have any questions about how to participate or about using social media, please contact us! You can reach Alex at

We are so excited to see everything you’re doing! So, don’t be shy – let’s share some landscaping joy with each other. This is an ongoing event; staff will be actively engaging with this online platform while the statewide Stay at Home Order is in effect, at least through June.

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The Big Float X

July 11, 2020
Tom McCall Waterfront Park

A promotional image reading The Big Float X, 10 Years of a Riverlution imposed over an image of people in floats on the Willamette River.

The Big Float is an annual celebration of the Willamette River and a benefit for the Human Access Project. It’s a grand parade/float/ beach party on the Willamette River in downtown Portland. The idea behind TBF is to help people “get into and embrace” their river. And to build support for improving river access and creating a river habitat for humans.

The event includes live music on two river barge stages, beer/ wine garden, food carts, best-of-cruise costume and watercraft contests, kids’ activities, and more. All ages are welcome and life jackets are required.

For more info and to register for TBF go to

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Student Video Contest – Deadline Extended

Attention 6th through 12th grade teachers, students, and homeschoolers. Our student video contest for the River Starts Here summer 2020 campaign is live! We have extended the deadline, videos are now due May 31!

Learn more and apply here!

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Native Plant Sales in 2020

Want to go native in your yard? Create a natural landscape that needs less water, fewer chemicals, and is resistant to pests and diseases. Native plants also attract birds, butterflies and beneficial wildlife to your yard while reducing erosion and protecting water quality.

Washington County residents browsing a collection of native plants.

Check out this Native Plant Finder to find the best plants for your landscape. Then, visit a local native plant sale to get started:

Thank you to Clean Water Services for sharing this blog post.

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