One of the things we have struggled to do here in Martinez is make our beavers more accessible, less misunderstood, and part of the community. The lion’s share of that work was done by the beavers themselves, who chose downtown for their home and lived fairly public lives showing off their habits and preferences. They were the original “Beaver ambassadors” and we just took our cue from them. We explained to people what they did and what they were seeing and doing our best to make the city not kill them.
Steven Murschel of West Linn Oregon takes it one step farther. I can’t believe this article slipped past me nearly 3 weeks ago, but I’m so glad it was brought to my attention now.
It was at that point that the West Linn Beaver Ambassadors group was born. For almost a year now, Murschel and others have led activities with schools, organizations and groups of volunteers in an effort to “increase awareness for the community about the beavers that live in West Linn and why this species is so important to the natural ecosystem.” Most recently, on Jan. 11, Murschel led educational workshops with two classrooms at Willamette Primary.
“I work with schools a lot,” Murschel said. “And I’m doing a lot of community events so that the community is more aware of the beaver population and the incredible benefits beavers can provide”
West Linn’s beavers — which have made homes at Mary S. Young Park as well as the Willamette, Robinwood and Fields Bridge parks — are behaviorally nocturnal and thus rarely seen out in the open. But their handiwork is abundant, and it takes just a short walk along the paths at Mary S. Young Park to see several beaver-made ponds sheltered by dams and surrounded by trees that have been caged to prevent further gnawing.
Steven takes his work serious and is making a serious difference. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for EBRP, for example, to have a beaver educator on board to educate folks in every park about the animal. Steven came to the festival last year and will be an exhibitor at the event this year. (If you needed further proof about the role the story of Martinez played in his work check out the photo in the presentation he is giving to that classroom. It might look familiar.)
“When they build the dam, the creek flowing through gets stocked up,” Murschel said. “Instead of a creek, you have a pond, and a pond is an excellent drinking source, so it will bring larger mammals for drinking. It’s a home for reptiles and amphibians and also for insects and smaller bugs — macroinvertebrates.
“When the smaller things start to come as a result of the slow of flow, then everything that eats those things comes, and everything that eats those things comes.”
In rainy Oregon, beavers also do their part to prevent flooding, according to Murschel. He compared beaver dams to the man-made bioswales and rain gardens that have become popular solutions for water runoff.
“People tend to think beavers cause a lot of flooding,” he said. “Flooding problems definitely happen, but in a bigger sense they’re holding back more water; they’re containing more water.”
Steven gets pretty excited about his work with kids, teaching them why beavers matter. He’s happy to share his ideas and is ready to learn from everyone. This is what it says about us on his website. Sometimes I like to imagine what it would be liked if he worked for Martinez and was hired to manage their beaver ambassador program. Then I break out into a hysteric fit of giggles and have to lie down.
“What we’re really trying to do is bring a lot of awareness to the fact that beavers are back, and we have these rare opportunities in some of our parks to showcase what they do,” Worcester said. “People — especially kids — are really interested … and we’re doing more outreach and some nighttime programs to kind of see beavers in different parks.”
I”I want to build in some mechanisms to have it continue in perpetuity,” he said. “And how you do this is certainly a challenge. But the website and all of the social media will certainly be there, so maybe they can continue to have interns work on it at a lower capacity.
“What they’ll definitely get out of it are management plans for this site and a couple of other sites in the city where beavers have impacted massively — that will be incredibly helpful to the city.”
Yes it will. And it’s incredibly helpful to every city to see what you’re doing and remember what’s possible. Steven is making such a difference in the lives of so many people and beavers I’m so glad that he was received the credit he deserves with this excellent article.
Martinez is looking forward to learning from you in June!