Sitting in a Meadow

Mar 14, 2012
How does it feel to see Camp Polk Meadow recovering, reunited with the stream that created it? Executive Director Brad Chalfant shares his thoughts.

It's been nearly 15 years since I first walked Camp Polk Meadow and in so many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Then it was a beautiful, but obviously damaged piece of land.  At the time, I walked the meadow with a deep pit in my stomach, wondering if we could possibly find a way to protect and restore it.  Today, with its new scars still fresh, the meadow is clearly blemished, but its well on its way back to health.  Someone asked me the other day how it felt to see something that you've worked on for so many years, lost countless sleepless nights over and dreamed endlessly about - how does it feel to see it recovering, reunited with the stream that created it?  

Whychus Creek during the final phase of restoration, 2011.  Photo: Jay Mather.
Whychus Creek during the final phase of restoration, 2011. Photo: Jay Mather.
Whychus Creek during the final phase of restoration, 2011. Photo: Jay Mather.

The pat answer is that it feels great, it feels satisfying.  However, the real answer, the honest answer is a lot more complicated.  The truth is that as great as it is to sit in the meadow on this abnormally warm, late winter day, alongside the newly remeandered channel, watching a flock of western blue birds and listening to the whistle of red wing blackbirds... my mind is filled with thoughts of what remains to be done.  There are weeds to pull, more willows and alder to plant, beavers to cajole up the creek to head of the meadow, roads to seed, and scars to heal.  And that's just here at Camp Polk Meadow.  My mind isn't still at all, but is racing with thoughts of the next acquisition, the removal of derelict structures, the next remeandering project, the next thinning, the next weed to pull.

No, if I'm honest with myself, while it does feel great to finally see Whychus Creek winding through Camp Polk Meadow, I know that I let go of the meadow some time ago.  It's not mine - it belongs to all who've given a part of themselves to help restore it and to be sure, there are many.  Acknowledging my restless nature and that we have so much work to do, what's mine - what belongs to me is the joy of knowing that there are more Camp Polk Meadows ahead of us, more forests to thin, more trees to plant and more people to share this work with.