Do you ever wonder, walking through Forest Park on a rainy day, where all of that falling water goes? While some of it is soaked up by vegetation, much of the rain that falls in Portland must make its way to the Willamette River via various creeks, streams, and of course the sewer system. In Northwest Portland, Balch Creek flows naturally through the forest until it reaches Macleay Park, where it enters a pipe to travel the rest of the way to the Willamette. But how do we keep this water flowing safely, without being blocked by the many leaves, branches, and even trees that fall into the creek on higher ground?
On Saturday December 3rd, Engineers and Designers from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) answered this question and more in an in-person workshop for students in our STEAM Career Tracks Program. They met at Lower Macleay Park, one of Portland's most popular entry points to Forest Park, to discuss the role of Engineering in managing urban watersheds to create safe and healthy residential neighborhoods within and near the forest ecosystem. Students heard from five different BES staff members with widely varying backgrounds about their personal career journeys that led them to the work they do now.
They saw in person how the Balch Creek Trash Rack acts to keep debris from obstructing the flow of water to the Willamette, ultimately preventing flooding and other dangers. Students got to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest and creek while learning about the technical challenges of maintaining it. They got to see that a career in engineering isn't just sitting at a desk, or visiting an urban construction site - it is also hiking through the woods, observing the natural landscape, and keeping the public safe.