South of the Creek Project

Email Response to a Concerned VGC Homeowner

Thank you for your letter to the VGC Master Homeowners Association. The Board shared your letter with me because I am the volunteer chairman of the “South of the Creek” Committee. Other residents and members of the The South of the Creek Committee provide voluntary mowing and weed control around the walking trail south of Garrison Creek….and make recommendations to the Board for other needed maintenance.

I met you briefly on the walking trail south of my residence on Garrison Creek. You are obviously ardent environmentalists, which I admire. I regret that you view our work thus far as “destruction of natural beauty” because our objective has been to retain the natural beauty, but reduce/eliminate some of the “troublesome” aspects of the forest meeting a suburban, residential area. Nevertheless, I welcome an active dialogue with you about our objectives and methods for maintenance of the walking trail area south of the Creek.

For background, my wife and I built in Phase 6 of the Villages in 2002. We chose to build in the Villages because of the aesthetics of the construction, layout and yard maintenance, which obviously adds to “curb appeal” of our residences….but equally as important, the presence of the beautiful walking trail, which we actively use. Other neighbors who border Garrison Creek and I, who also consider ourselves environmentalists, watched in dismay for years as previous HOA Boards ignored grounds maintenance of the area south of the Creek under a “wilderness” concept that resulted in:

1) Blackberries overrunning the trail, the Creek and our backyards;
2) Cottonwood trees close to residences not being removed before they became oversized and fragile, causing damage to houses, patios and other structures, and;
3) For one section between Bridges 2 and 3, willow trees close to residences not being thinned, resulting in overgrowth and an infestation of aphids that deposit a noxious, oily layer on neighbors’ houses, patios and patio furniture.

We have consulted extensively with arborist Andy Asmus and College Place City Planner Jon Rickard…and Dave Karl of the WA Fish and Wildlife Department has walked the Creek with us…as we have developed our action plans to more actively manage grounds maintenance south of the Creek. The work we have done to date fundamentally defines the structure and the footprint of what we see as the best balance we can achieve between “natural beauty” and maintainability of the area south of the Creek. Approximately $20,000 of HOA dues was spent for large cottonwood and willow removal in 2016. The remainder of the work has largely been done by homeowners close to the Creek at their expense (estimated at a minimum of $60,000) supplemented by volunteer labor.

1) We have, for the most part, pushed back the blackberries as far as we need to so we can maintain a mowed border next to the walking trail and the large pasture south of Bridge 1. Our future plans are to continue blackberry removal as they try once again to encroach on our walking trail and the Creek itself. In areas that are currently cleared, we will also continue removal of volunteer trees and brush that provide “trellises” for the blackberries.
2) We have removed a good number of the oversized, fragile cottonwood trees that were hazardous to residences along the Creek and whose roots have broken out parts of the walking trail south of the Creek. Approximately 20 additional large cottonwoods close to residences will be on our list for removal later this year. After that, we will continue to remove volunteer cottonwoods and existing cottonwoods that are causing new threats as they grow larger. What we hope will be the result will be a maintainable, wooded walking trail complete with multiple species of trees, including cottonwoods that aren’t threatening to residences.
3) We will continue selective thinning of overabundant large willows close to residences between Bridge 2 and Bridge 3. We need to reduce the number of the trees so we can better address aphid control in the remaining trees. This work will not dramatically address the “shade” in that area, because 70% to 90% of the trees will remain.

Finally, you should anticipate additional new plantings, some at individual homeowners’ expense and some at HOA expense this Spring/Summer and in the future. Weekly mowing and noxious weed control in the area south of the Creek will continue to be provided by Roger Williams and me….at our expense.

Please bear with us. I truly believe our objectives are more closely aligned with yours than you currently believe. I repeat…I welcome a continuing dialogue. We don’t have all the answers and respect/appreciate constructive input and volunteer labor as we work to keep the wonderful area south of the Creek beautiful and maintainable.


Ray Goff