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September 2015 -- Vol. 110, No. 1

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


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Beetle, Oaks Bottom, Sellwood, Purple Loosestrife
Meet the beetle! It landed – and would not be shooed off the reporter’s spectacles! (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Oaks Bottom’s beetles bug Sellwood

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

The thick dark-brown swarm of bugs billowing out from the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge started on the evening of Friday, August 7, and conjured the word “plague” in the minds of many folks in the Sellwood area.

Neighbor Carla Lang was one of the first to contact THE BEE about the bug invasion, asking about “the little critters invading our neighborhood, eating crepe myrtle shrubs with a summer bloom, roses, strawberries, and the like.”

Lang pointed out several plants and trees above the Oaks Bottom bluff that had been attacked by what turned out to be starving swarms of Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla leaf beetles.

These insects had been intentionally introduced into Oaks Bottom on at least two occasions – to control purple loosestrife, called by some a “botanical barbarian” because it quickly spreads and takes over wetland areas. The problem this time, apparently, was that the purple loosestrife was mostly gone for the year, and the hungry bugs burst forth looking for something – anything – to eat.

That weekend, at historic Oaks Amusement Park, the swarm of beetles dismayed both guests and staffmembers, reported Senior Manager Mary Beth Coffey, adding wryly, “This gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Meet the Beetles’ – something very different from The Beatles’ ‘invasion’ of 1964!

“On Saturday [August 9], we started having some little fly things in the air, flitting about here and there,” Coffey said. “By mid-day, there was a massive ‘brown cloud’ coming from Oaks Bottom swarming over our midway, rides, and picnic areas. There were millions of these bugs. They covered our office windows, and landed on everything and everyone.”

The historic amusement park had to close down their food service and catering, because as soon as food was uncovered to be served, it was covered with curious bugs – not eating the food, just landing on it.

“We had to throw cotton candy away because, as we were making it, bugs were flying into it,” Coffey said. “Who wants brown, buggy cotton candy?”

Sunday wasn’t any better at The Oaks. “The hotter it got, the worse it got,” Coffey remarked. “In the evening, as it cooled off, they went away to some extent. But by mid-Sunday afternoon it was really bad.”

While these beetles didn’t bite or sting, they made everyone uncomfortable and concerned at the summertime fun center, she said. “We did have a causality: Our 100-year-old Lloyd Center roses; they were eaten down to the nub.”


Beetle, Oaks Bottom, Sellwood, Purple Loosestrife, Oaks Amusement Park
A block away from the Oaks Bottom bluff, this crape myrtle tree has been decimated by Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla leaf beetles, released repeatedly in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to control purple loosestrife. When there wasn’t any of that left when they hatched, the bugs started looking elsewhere. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

When THE BEE asked Portland Parks & Recreation representatives about the beetle release, they pointed to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

At a hastily-called open house, held at the Sellwood Community Center on the evening of August 13, ODA and USDA officials were on hand to do their best to quell the concerns of neighbors.

ODA Noxious Weed Control Program Manager Tim Butler talked with THE BEE at that open house.

“These beetles were introduced into Oregon in 1992,” Butler began. “They’ve been moved around the state and have been a very successful bio-control program on purple loosestrife.

“It has preserved a lot of riparian and wetland areas from invasions of purple loosestrife,” Butler continued. “It’s prevented about $28 million in damages, from the economic standpoint of the impact it could have had on fish species and wildlife.”

Butler said that the beetle was unsuccessfully introduced in Oaks Bottom several times over the last decade, failing to get a foothold each time.

“In 2012, there was another attempt was made by USDA’s Animal Health Plant Inspection Service (AHPIS), working cooperatively with Portland Arts & Recreation, to have a solution to purple loosestrife control in Oaks bottom,” Butler said. “ODA did supply some insects to AHPIS for the releases over the years, but it was the USDA that actually made the releases.”

Asked why the beetles voraciously consumed rose buds and crape myrtle leaves, Butler replied, “They also like pomegranate. Crape myrtle is in the same family as purple loosestrife. With their target plant consumed, the beetles were seeking similar food sources.

“By the way,” Butler added, “they cannot sustain themselves, or complete their life cycle, on anything other than purple loosestrife.” 

Butler summarized the take-home message given by agency representations: “This was all done with the best intentions of all of us. This is a unique situation that has not occurred before. We feel that it occurred due to the fact of the specific weather conditions, and the conditions for the insects to multiply very rapidly, and explode in population.”

“Who’s taking responsibility for the destruction caused by the swarm?” asked THE BEE.

“Seriously, we have not talked about compensation,” Butler replied. “I would ask people to be patient. We are really concerned about the homeowners and other affected by this situation, and sympathize with that. Most of these plants, if they maintain them, keep them watered, will come back. It’s not an absolute, but in most cases those plants will come back – they are not dead.”

At the time the federal and state agencies approved the release of these beetles, they felt that the reward was much greater than any risk, Butler added.

Neighbor Carla Lang agreed. “That being said, it seems like a fair trade, to me, to have some plants eaten this year, in exchange for having a healthier ecosystem in the Oaks Bottom Nature Preserve.” Those troubled by bugs in their cotton candy have yet to be heard from.

Whenever neighbors have specific concerns, Butler said, he can be e-mailed at: tbutler@oda.state.or.us – or you can call him at 503/986-4625.



Sellwood Bridge, bolts, substandard, delay
A worker welds studs to bolts on the deck of the new Sellwood Bridge. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

“Out-of-spec bolts” slow Sellwood Bridge progress

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

With most of the heavy construction work completed on S.E. 6th Avenue, both north and south of Tacoma Street, most of the infrastructure work for the eastern landing of the new Sellwood Bridge has been completed.

Crews will soon be installing a traffic control signal at the intersection, according to Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge Project spokesman Mike Pullen. “However, the signal won’t be turned on until the new bridge has opened,” he said.

And, it appears that the new bridge won’t be fully in service until February or March of next year, Pullen said, as he took THE BEE on a new tour of the site.

One of the things slowing progress is a potential problem with some of the bolts that were supplied for the project.

“There are tens of thousands of bolts that hold the steel arches and deck together, on the new Sellwood Bridge river spans,” Pullen explained, looking up at the underside of superstructure from the “work bridge” below.

“Some of the bolts have had to go back to the manufacturer, because they did not meet our specifications,” Pullen continued. So, waiting for these replacement bolts have slowed down the work on the main span. “We can't pour the concrete decks until all of the bolts have been installed.”

As our tour brought us up to the Tacoma Street level of the project, Pullen invited THE BEE to walk out on the concrete forms – now in place from the east embankment to past the center of the river.

This view of the bridge, under construction, was invigorating and inspiring.

Some workers were welding studs atop bolts, while others were cutting and assembling concrete forms atop the new bridge. The surface was not level; the center lanes were significantly deeper.

“The concrete and rebar will be thicker in the center, to accommodate light rail – a trolley line, that might be installed in the future,” Pullen commented.

The timetable indicates that the main concrete decking will be poured this fall.

Up to this point, Pullen said, the project is likely to come in at only 3½ percent over the original estimate. “The [surcharge] revenue from Vehicle Registration that helps fund this project has been above our original estimates. This means it will likely ‘sunset’ as originally planned. I think that is good news.”



Arson, house fire, Brentwood Darlington, Portland
While crew members doused the garage with water, other firefighters wet down the adjacent house, in an effort to keep it from burning down. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

“Arson!” asserts homeowner, as blaze chars Brentwood-Darlington house

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

It didn’t take long for the fire that started in a detached garage at 7615 S.E. 66th Avenue, just south of Flavel Street, to balloon into a big blaze, on Thursday, August 6.

Portland Fire & Rescue responded to the alarm at 8:15 pm, bringing in both the truck and engine from Woodstock’s Station 25, and engines from Westmoreland Station 20 and Lents Station 11.

When the first crews arrived, they reported seeing a detached garage that was fully involved. More concerning, this fire had begun spreading to the houses on either side.

“Firefighters made entry to one home nearest the garage, and found it vacant,” said PF&R spokesman Firefighter Jesse Altig. “They found smoke inside the structure, and determined the fire had spread into the attic.”

On the house’s roof, truck crews cut holes for “vertical ventilation”, allowing volatile gasses to escape, and allowing them to shoot water into the attic.

“Additional crews made a quick attack of the garage fire and stopped it from spreading to the interior of the second home,” Altig said.

At the scene, a former resident of the badly damaged house, Mark Cach, appeared incensed, as he spoke with neighbors who’d called to alert him to the fire.

“We moved out of this house about seven months ago,” Cach told THE BEE as he watched his house still smoldering.

“But, we made it look as if we were still living here,” Cach said. “We had a car parked here; we had lights on timers going on and off, and the radio on.

But soon, the car’s tires were flattened, and they found their windows shattered. “We put Plexiglas over all the windows,” Cach noted, “but then the side window and back door were kicked in.

“Neighbors tell us it was the same tall, blond, long-haired skinny guy that vandalizes the house, and who is terrorizing our neighborhood,” Cach said.

Three weeks ago, Cach said the man set the area of the electric meter ablaze by wrapping rags around it and lighting it on fire. “The lady across the street saw him doing it, and called the fire department, and they put it out.

“I was in the process of moving back in, to save the house,” Cach added, “but now, it looks pretty much destroyed. He’s burned it down.”

PF&R Fire Investigators have not released an official cause of this fire at this time, but they hope neighbors will call police if and when this man is again seen in the neighborhood.



Bridge Pedal, Sellwood Moreland, Oaks Bottom, Sellwood Bridge
Making the turn above Oaks Bottom from S.E. Sellwood Boulevard around to 7th Avenue, the riders proceed south beside Sellwood Park to Tacoma Street, and then the Sellwood Bridge. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

“Bridge Pedal” bicyclists invade Inner Southeast

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

On the early Sunday morning of August 9th, the 20th annual “Providence Bridge Pedal” brought thousands of riders across the Sellwood Bridge this year.

Those unaware of the annual bicycle-riding festival looked surprised. “What’s going on here?” asked Meredith Jenkins, as she watched bicyclists whizzing past her on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue as she was walking her dog Beau. “I’ve never seen so many bikes!”

After riding across the Morrison Bridge at the event’s starting point, riders veered off S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard onto southbound Milwaukie Avenue, and then streamed through Westmoreland, past Llewellyn Elementary School.

A popular stop on the way was in front of Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial, at S.E. 14th and Bybee Boulevard. Their parking lot – the site of the Moreland Farmers Market – was turned into a six portable restroom “comfort station”.

From there, the masses of bicyclists proceeded west on S.E. Sellwood Boulevard, then south past Sellwood Park, before turning west on Tacoma Street and pedaling across the old Sellwood Bridge.

“Only 8,500 of the 20,000 total participants – those selecting the ‘Fremont Express’ and ‘11 Bridge’ routes – actually crossed the Sellwood Bridge,” later explained Event Director Rick Bauman.

Ride organizers had stationed a volunteer at each turn, and one near mid-span, of the historic old bridge – due early next year to be replaced and removed. The volunteers were equipped with bullhorns, and urged riders to slow down and be cautious of metal plates in the roadway.

“Next year we plan to be riding across the new Sellwood Bridge!” Bauman grinned.



Flugtag, Bruun, discouteous boaters, Willamette River, Coast Guard
Too many boats and not enough channel. Boaters illegally blocked the Willamette River channel in front of the competition, causing the United States Coast Guard Harbormaster to shut down the Flugtag early. The Bruuns were not allowed to compete. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Discourteous boaters sink Bruun Bros’ flight-record hopes

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

For weeks on end, after work and on the weekends, the Bruun brothers and their dad labored in the Lorentz Bruun Company woodshop, located in the Brooklyn neighborhood since the 1940s, building their entry for the 2015 Portland Red Bull “Flugtag” competition on the Willamette River, downtown.

“We thought it would be a fun thing for our family and company to do, to get together after hours,” said brother Erik Bruun, as he labored in the sweltering heat of the late afternoon to assemble their glider. We’re really trying to be set world’s record. I’m sure it will fly, but we’re not sure how far.”

With just four days to go, the Bruuns were on track to complete their glider, modified from a “tried-and-true design” they found on the Internet.

“Our plane is made up of more than 1,000 pieces of Sitka spruce that we hand-cut and assembled, before we wrapped the gilder in special airplane ‘skin’,” explained Brother Mark Bruun. “It has a wingspan of 28 feet, and it’s 20 feet in length.”

Unlike many “Flugtag” entries – often a garishly-painted box that’s pushed off a ramp into the Willamette River – their glider was built to actually fly. “It has full aileron controls and a rudder,” Mark said. “The whole thing weighs about 200 pounds; our pilot weighs about 130 pounds.”

As the brothers showed their craft, their pilot – family friend Tony Singmeuangthong -- walked into the shop.

“It’s true; I’ve had flight lessons in a real airplane this week,” Singmeuangthong smiled to THE BEE. “It was scary at first, to fly up and have my instructor turn off the engine. But it gave me the feel of how to dive, pull out, pick up air speed, and fly.”

They’d already created their “soundtrack”, and prepared their costumes and props.

“Flying is just part of the event,” Erik said. “The two criteria are showmanship and costuming. As ‘Team Rip City’, we’re commemorating Dr. Jack [Ramsay], the coach of the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, who passed away last year. The skit will feature ‘players’, basketballs, and our pilot dressed in  plaid pants – one of Dr. Jack’s trademarks.”

Their dad, Kelly Bruun, was too busy to talk. He was using a heat gun to shrink the skin on parts of the glider. Other Lorentz Bruun Company employees pitched in to build the craft.

Their dedication attracted the attention of a television production crew from England, who documented the family’s efforts to build a record-breaking glider to fly in the upcoming competition.

Although the energy drink sponsors such “flying day” events every year, the last time the “Flugtag” came to Portland was in 2008, drawing an estimated 80,000 spectators, just south of the Hawthorne Bridge in Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Because of the massive response to their last one here, Red Bull picked Portland as their only United States “Flugtag” host city for 2015, set to take place on August 1.

Because experts had believed that the Bruuns had a craft that might actually fly – and perhaps set a new world record – Team Rip City was the last entry scheduled in the competition.

The day dawned bright, and hot.  The bowl of Tom McCall waterfront Park was packed with spectators, as was the river.

THE BEE was permitted to watch the action, from the RiverPlace dock.

Many of the entrants pushed their crafts off the edge of a platform, 30 feet above the water, and watched them plummet into the river.  The Voodoo Donuts giant pink box was a hit with spectators; but, with its flimsy cardboard “wings”, it dropped like a dozens of day-old donuts directly into the Willamette River.

Throughout the day, by way of a high-power sound system, announcers asked, pleaded, and cajoled boaters to keep the river channel clear. During these announcements, several boaters chose to crank up on-board stereos to eardrum-shattering levels to drown out the request.

Consequently, many “captains” ignored Oregon Boating Law ORS 830.345:

  • Anchored position must not obstruct the passage of other boats.
  • In navigation channels, deep-draft commercial vessels have right-of-way.

Many large boat and yacht operators flagrantly ignored the law, refused to clear the channel, or “filled in” after Multnomah County Sheriff’s boats cleared a path.

At about 4:15 pm, the competition came to a stop. Even the director of the ESPN video production company couldn’t explain the long pause in the activities – with eight entries yet to go. Word soon spread that the United States Coast Guard Harbormaster had cancelled the event’s permit, due to boat congestion in the river.

In the paddock area, the members of Team Rip City were disappointed beyond words. Kelly Bruun shook his head as they wheeled their glider north, along the park, back to their truck.

“This is a very disappointing,” Kelly said. “It’s a real blow to us all, after our great team effort, involving more than two months of hard work. We worked nights and weekends to get to this point.

“For this event to be shut down like this before it can fly; it just does not seem reasonable,” the senior Bruun said. “This is really too bad.”

Pointing out that all of the entries are unceremoniously crushed in the jaws of an excavator when they are pulled out of the river, one of the Red Bull promotion team consoled, “Well, at least they can fly their glider another day!”

Although an estimated 90,000 spectators showed up – due to the antics of the disobedient boaters, it’s not likely that the Red Bull “Flugtag” competition will return to Portland anytime soon.





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