Bear Creek Festival widens focus to include all creatures

What was once an annual salmon bake is now an event that celebrates all the creatures in Bear Creek.

The seventh annual Bear Creek Festival will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at the North Mountain Park Nature Center, 620 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

"We changed our focus to all the creatures in the creek," said stewardship coordinator Linda Chesney.

The salmon dinner is gone, but there still will be a cooking demonstration and samples to try.

A new feature is the All Creatures Parade, in which people can make masks representing the creatures that live in the creek. The group of "animals" will march around the park with percussion instruments. Another new event is the Creature Quest, a clue-based exploration around the park.

"The point is to experience the beauty of the park," said Chesney.

Nearly 25 exhibits will be set up with information about the creek and how to help keep it healthy. Grilla Bites will provide a food stand, and a silent auction will be held throughout the day. Revenues from the auction will go toward an upcoming work party to clean up Bear Creek. Brent Florendo, a Native American studies instructor at Southern Oregon University, will sing and play his drum, Dancing Spirit.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist chuck Fustish will collect a sample of what lives in the creek and place the creatures in two 10-gallon tanks for public viewing throughout the day. Fustish also will talk about a five-year stream monitoring study and answer any questions about the fish and the creek.

"The monitoring tells us lots of things about the water quality in Bear Creek," he said.

ODFW biologist David Haight said changes in the creek, from water temperature to irrigation dams, affect wildlife and their habitat.

"It is an impacted stream. There are a number of pollutants," Haight said.

Work has been done to enhance riparian vegetation and shading along the creek to help prevent erosion and lower the water temperature, Haight added.

"Over the short-term things are improving," he said.

"There's always room for improvement," Chesney said.

People can help make a difference by keeping contaminants from flowing into storm drains and eventually into the creek.

"We all are connected and can make a difference," said Chesney.

For information on the festival, visit

Reach reporter Johanna Thompson at 541-482-3456, ext. 225.

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