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LO's park stewardship 'heroes' share victories and challenges

Friends groups gather for a quarterly forum after logging 1,500 volunteer hours in city's open spaces

In the past year, nine volunteer and friends groups in Lake Oswego have put in more than 1,500 hours maintaining local parks — although Babs Hamachek thinks the actual amount of time ranges into the tens of thousands of hours.

“Our friends groups are unsung heroes,” says Hamachek, the city’s parks stewardship coordinator. “They give selflessly to protecting and nurturing the natural areas of Lake Oswego’s parks.”

Last week, those heroes from Hallinan Heights Woods, Iron Mountain Park, Lily Bay, Luscher Farm, Rogerson Clematis Garden, Springbrook Park, Southwood Park, East and West Waluga Parks and Woodmont Park spoke of their victories and challenges during a joint quarterly forum sponsored by the Natural Resources Advisory Board and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Todd Van Rysselberghe, NRAB’s co-chairman, told The Review that he is a strong believer in the friends groups “and what they provide to the city.” He gave one example of the difference a single friends group can make.

“Mike Buck has taken on the efforts in Iron Mountain,” he said, “and about two years ago, he and others decided that they should take on a goal of freeing a thousand trees from ivy, which was a really big project. They just took it on and they were successful. It gives you an idea of the kind of effort that can be made.”

Friends groups in Lake Oswego range in size and age, but they share a common obstacle: invasive species. For the most part, work parties still involve a lot of ivy pulling and blackberry hacking.

Paul Lyons, president of Friends of Springbrook Park, said “it takes years to remove an acre of ivy,” and his 13-year-old group is responsible for a 52-acre park.

But diligent work and widespread spraying of about 46 acres has allowed Friends of Springbrook Park to move onto the coveted next step: planting. To date, they have planted more than 2,200 trees and shrubs, Lyons told the


“We finished two miles of trails,” Lyons said, and now “track and cross-country teams from Lake Oswego High do training there.”

Lyons’ group boasts as many as 300 members and nonprofit status. This year, he said, the group raised more than $1,200 to fund planting.

Mary Solares, who spoke on behalf of Friends of Southwood Park, said city officials taught her group that it needed “a year-long plan and a five-year plan,” and that those efforts have paid off. “We’re finding trilliums we hadn’t seen before,” she said, “by getting all that ivy away.”

Will Mahoney-Watson of Friends of Waluga Park described the moment he knew a friends group had to be formed.

“I was walking my dog at Waluga Park,” he said,”and I was ashamed” of the ivy overtaking the trees.

The fledgling friends group partnered with the Waluga Neighborhood Association — “If you have a neighborhood association sponsor you, you don’t need a board,” Mahoney-Watson explained — and since fall, the group has completed ivy pulls in the south half of East Waluga Park.

“The long-term goals are to remove all ivy and nasty poison oak infestations,” he said. Longer term, he added, “I’d like to see wetlands restored. There were once wetlands there.”

One of the newer groups present, Friends of Woodmont Park, welcomed Americorp volunteers last spring for ivy pulling and planting. “But the ivy is coming back, and we do not have a strong group of volunteers,” member Heidi Schrimsher said.

The group hopes to formulate a master plan — necessary for any park that is four acres or more. Meanwhile, Schrimsher spoke of different efforts at Luscher Farm, where she is also a member of the stewardship group.

“We’re in the home stretch of working on an agricultural farm for Luscher,” she said. “The goal is to bring (the farm) into the urban growth boundary trail designs coming up.”

Also in the works, she said: a natural resource restoration plan and, further off, a fundraiser for the construction of an education center.

Luscher Farm reports a strong volunteer base: In the summer, there are about 150 volunteer hours recorded each month, dipping down to between 60 and 80 hours a month in the winter.

Kim Valley, a member of Friends of Southwood Park, addressed work party recruitment and warned about volunteer fatigue and retention. She recommended that organizers contact local high schools, where students each have a number of community service hours to fulfill as a graduation requirement.

But above all, Valley said, “Look for people to pass the passion onto — the same people can’t do this forever.”

Hamachek urged volunteers to record not only hours spent physically improving the park, but also the time spent mobilizing volunteers, attending board meetings and organizing work parties.

“Those hours are priceless,” she said. “It tells those allocating funds the value of what you do, and it might help get a grant down the road.”

For more information about stewardship opportunities around Lake Oswego, visit http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec/2015-stewardship-opportunities.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or sorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.


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