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Parks & Rec staff join Friends groups to conduct work parties that restore the area's natural habitats

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Barbara Fisher rakes out some new gravel on one of the paths that meander through Freepons Park during a Friends of  Hallinan Heights Woods work party in late September. REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Nancy Moon Eilers returns for another load of gravel during a stewardship work party at Freepons Park last month. When Doug McKean used to stroll through Springbrook Park, the sight of English ivy shrouding the trees and forming huge areas devoid of native species troubled him.

But after years of work by the City of Lake Oswego, the Friends of Springbook Park and invasive removal contractors, McKean's strolls are much more pleasant these days. Though non-native species still lurk in the periphery, they aren't nearly as pervasive.

"The volunteers' efforts and the City's spraying of English ivy has made a big difference," says McKean, a Springbrook Park friends group member.

To the Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation Department, Springbrook Park is a shining example of the kinds of results being achieved throughout the city, thanks to a collaborative effort that leans heavily on volunteers not only to pull invasive species and "free the trees" but also to install native plants and restore habitats.

The City partners with nine neighborhood groups throughout the year to conduct a series of work parties in nearly two dozen parks and natural areas. There are seven gatherings planned for October alone and 28 were held in the 2016-17 fiscal year — representing more than 423 hours of volunteer service over more than 460 acres of open space.

"We really see our Friends groups as our partners. They are the ones that have been fighting with us," says Parks & Rec Senior Crew Leader Megan Big John.

The City's Habitat Enhancement Fund has allowed the Parks Department to hire contractors to shoulder the heavy lifting of non-native species removal. In turn, the Friends groups don't have to spend as much time on the laborious task of pulling ivy. Instead, they also get to plant native species such as Indian plum, elderberry and snowberry.

"Pulling ivy feels good to a point, but planting is awesome and that's where we need the help," Big John says.

While English ivy is the most common invasive species, the groups also remove geranium, holly, laurel, garlic mustard and many others. In time, though, the non-native species will sprout back up again, making the process of park maintenance a never-ending battle in which Mother Nature has the upper hand.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Finn Rolstad fills a wheelbarrow with gravel during a recent Friends of Hallinan Heights Woods work party. Children are encouraged to take part in most of the City's stewardship efforts.  "You have to remove the species, but as soon as you have bare soil something new is going to want to grow," Big John says. "You really want to get cover on that soil as quickly as possible. But restoration is expensive, considering the cost of materials and labor, and it's not quick. It takes years to do that."

McKean says the Springbrook Park friends group will continue to remove as many invasive species as they can. But he says it's equally important for the City to continue to bring in contractors for other tasks that are necessary for the parks' maintenance.

"The volunteers will get after the invasives when we get to the park, but I'm hoping the City is going to continue to contract for spraying and other invasive-removal projects," McKean says.

It's also crucial to the future of parks stewardship for the City to attract a younger demographic to attend work parties and connect Lake Oswego's younger generation to the natural environment, according to Parks Stewardship Coordinator Babs Hamachek.

"How do we get parents and kids involved in the work parties? We thought we needed something that is catchy, that is clever, creative and will bring people over to learn about our educational outreach," Hamachek says.

The answer: gnomes — specifically Oak, Blossom and Greenie, who were named by community members in a contest held earlier this year.

At various work parties throughout the year, City staffers will hide laminated silhouettes of the gnomes in undisclosed locations, and volunteers who find them can earn a prize. The Parks Department also passed out gnome tattoos at concerts throughout the summer.

Preschool Nature Walks have been held at Springbrook Park, with plans to expand the program citywide. (See the story and photos on Page A8.) At the events, youngsters get an opportunity to learn more about nature with magnifying glasses, shovels and buckets in hand.

In addition, youth groups often volunteer their services. For example, the Lake Oswego High School cross country team annually refurbishes the trails at Springbook Park, and McKean says the park's friends group is hoping to foster an even tighter relationship with local schools.

"We want to get kids into the park to use it as a resource for biology and ecology classes," he says.

But regardless of age, Hamacheck says she's just grateful that so many community members are committed to stewardship efforts.

"Our volunteers put on their parkas, their boots and they are out there in this weather because they care so much," she says. "It warms my heart to see the dedication that our friends put into the parks."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Corey Buchanan at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IN THE WEEDS

There are plenty of opportunities this month to help restore and protect Lake Oswego's parks and open spaces. Put on your jeans and sturdy shoes, grab your gloves and some water to drink and head to one of these stewardship work parties:

Oct. 8 (1-3 p.m.): Friends of Hallinan Heights Woods will remove invasive species from the Cornell Natural Area (near the intersection of Cornell Street and Larch Street). Park off Larch Street and look for stewardship signs; carpooling is recommended. Details: Barbara Fisher at 503-636-3153 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oct. 14 (9-11 a.m.): Friends of Springbrook Park will replace invasives with new plants at the park behind Uplands Elementary (2055 Wembley Park Road). Look for directional signs for the planting site in the woods. Details: Tom Bland at 503-860-8665 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oct. 14 (9 a.m.-noon): Friends of Luscher Farm will do some planting and mulching to beautify the nearby Brock property (344 Rosemont Road). Details: Heidi Schrimsher at 503-754-6640 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oct 15. (1-3 p.m.): Friends of Iron Mountain Park will tackle the ivy that smothers native species. Park at the gravel trailhead off Brookside Road and Twin Fir Road behind Oswego Hunt. Details: Mike Buck at 503-914-8607 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oct 21. (9 a.m.-1 p.m.): Friends of the Trees and the City of Lake Oswego will plant native species and restore habitats in River Run Park (19700 River Run Drive) near the Tualatin River. Details: Go to www.friendsoftrees.org or call Jenny or Pablo at 503-595-0213.

Oct. 28 (9:30-11:30 a.m.): Friends of Waluga Park will work on trail improvements and remove invasive species at the park (15505 Quarry Road). Details: Will Mahoney-Watson at 503-752-3430 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Oct. 29 (1-3 p.m.): Friends of Woodmont Park will remove invasive species as they work to restore the natural park to a healthy status. Park at the intersection of Atwater Road and Knaus Road; work party is down a graveled trail. Details: Heidi Schrimsher at 503-754-6640 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

— The Review

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