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Volunteering brings satisfaction to this gardening grandma

(Jennifer Priest Mitchell is a freelance writer in Beaverton. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The Tualatin Hills Nature Park Interpretive Center is home to newts, birds of prey and songbirds, raccoons and deer, as well as an amazing collection of wildflowers, trees and native plants.

The park is part of Washington County's Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, and thereby hosts hundreds of classes each year: a nature-themed preschool, summer camps, yoga classes, and craft sessions, among others.

While the facility has a delightful, friendly group of employees who make all the courses and events come together, they are quick to note that regular volunteers are on the list of what makes the park tick. And Carolyn Rose, one of their most devoted and enthusiastic volunteers, is a familiar face at the park each week.

Rose has volunteered at the Nature Center for about five years and explains that during the summer she is busy watching her four grandchildren, who are all between 5 and 9 years old.

'During the summer, I am pretty busy with the grandchildren, so I go in to volunteer later in the afternoon or else on the weekends,' she said. 'But during the school year I go in each Thursday.'

She said the staff has a to-do box for her, and it is full and waiting upon her arrival. Rose helps with a great deal of the prep work for crafts and activities for the younger set. Children as young as 3 attend various ongoing classes and sessions there, and Rose helps cut out the paper birds, copy the coloring pages and put together the various supplies they will need for mobiles, animal identification charts, bird feeders and other educational or nature-themed treasures that will go home with them.

Beyond her regular volunteer activities, though, Rose's involvement with the park has become even more meaningful due to her gardening hobby and her own gardening club.

'Recently at the Nature Park, they've decided to make a Native Plant Identification area outside of the Visitor Center at the park,' she shares, 'and I've been facilitating that.'

Three planting areas just outside of the building have been allowed to go natural in recent years. The volunteer gardeners, including Rose, have been weeding and prepping the grounds for an educational garden that will highlight plants native to the area and educate visitors, helping them learn about, appreciate, and perhaps even choose to plant in their own yards or containers plants that are native to Oregon.

Rose, a lover of plants and the wild, said, 'Well, I guess the area was just getting to be a bit too natural, so we are weeding it and making it so you will be able to see some of the really nice plants, like the ferns, and identify them.'

She explains that a landscaping plan is a part of the process, and then a planting will take place this autumn.

Rose was very pleased with the support and enthusiasm of the board, as well as the Nature Park Director, as her garden club recently met there to do some weeding and to talk about the project. Rose's yard at home includes a railroad garden, and she confesses, 'Our grandchildren were part of the inspiration for this.'

She laughs and tells the story of her husband going to a railroad show with their then 1-year-old grandson and coming home with a big train set. They've gradually added to the train set over the years and developed their garden around the site. The Roses' home garden was actually on a public tour of local railroad gardens earlier this summer.

A native of Idaho, Rose reports that her family has always enjoyed the outdoors and been campers and hikers. She and her husband were both teachers and they moved to Oregon in the 1960s to teach school in a small logging community.

'We taught together in a two-room school house in Fisher,' she reminisces. 'They furnished us with a house and it was pretty rustic … pretty dark at night. We had a good time, though, and we did that for two years, and then my husband got a teaching job in Beaverton and I became pregnant with our first child.'

When asked what she likes about living in this area, Rose said, 'You're an hour from the beach and an hour from the mountains … we don't get hurricanes and it doesn't get real hot for real long … what more could you want?'