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Friends work to make nature better at Springbrook Park

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Spencer Pearl, a LOJHS eighth grader, adds wood chips to a park trail.

These days you read a lot about how neighborhood spirit declining in America.

But that is not the case in Uplands Neighborhood of Lake Oswego.

Just recently, the Friends of Springbrook Park had two big park cleanup days in 52-acre Springbrook Park, the heart of the neighborhood and such good work has been going on for over three decades. They could give pointers to the rest of America about community spirit.

'I never cease to be impressed with the people who volunteer,' said Audrey Mattison, secretary of the Friends and a stalwart of the organization since the 1970s.

It is certainly an impressive group. Not only folks from the Uplands neighborhood, but children from two schools in the Springbrook Park Area, Uplands Elementary and Lake Oswego Junior High. There were 150 of them making the ivy fly at the most recent workday on April 20.

But it isn't just little kids who are not afraid to go out and get their hands dirty. There are college professors like Stephanie Wagner and Ed Chinn. Chinn has even written a book about Springbrook Park.

'We have a strong history,' Mattison said. 'I think we're kind of unique.'

The future looks strong, too. It is symbolized by the organization's postcard photo of current president Carey Blem rolling her 3-year-old daughter Munroe in a stroller down a peaceful path in Springbrook Park. It shows how the Friends have been able to enlist young people like Blem (and maybe someday her daughter) to keep the tradition going.

That is good news for Ron Hanson and Mattison, who started the organization.

While Friends of Springbrook Park has been around for a long time, the organization was revitalized in 2003 when it became established as a nonprofit organization.

Testimonies abound about the importance of the Friends' work:

'Living close to Springbrook Park has been a privilege,' said Jim Evans, manager for the April 14 portion of the restoration project. 'Community events like this are a great way for me and my family to give a little back to the neighborhood. Controlling invasive non-native plants like English Ivy is one way we can help restore the park and make it suitable for native plants to thrive.'

'Our open spaces provide vital habitat for plants and wildlife as well as places for neighbors to reconnect with nature,' said AmeriCorps' Greg Creager, who works with the city of Lake Oswego as a volunteer coordinator. 'Volunteerism plays an increasingly important role in the ecological health of these natural areas and our community.'

Pulling ivy may seem mundane and labor intensive, but Mattison calls it 'the first step of sustainability.' Without it there are blighted forests, damaged watersheds and the loss of wildlife and native plants.

The Friends are not content to just make Springbrook Park a better place. They are working closely with the city to establish a plan they hope will eventually be used by the nearly 30 natural areas within the city limits. While providing guidelines, the plan can also be tailored to the needs of specific neighborhoods.

'I hope we inspire other neighborhood associations to preserve natural areas,' Mattison said.

Ambitious and idealistic? True. But that has worked for Springbrook Park.

'The city is excited to be working with both the school district and the Friends of Springbrook Park for this stewardship project,' said Lisa Hamerlynck, natural resources coordinator for the city.

Mattison said her coordination of the April 20 event was her 'swansong' with the Friends. But she is confident its members have the strength to carry on.

'I really think the Friends of Springbrook Park has staying power,' she said.

For more information about the Friends of Springbrook Park, go to their Web site located at www.springbrookpark.org .