WL recognizes reluctant hero for tireless work at local parks
When Don Kingsborough learned that he won the City of West Linn's 2017 Robert Moore Award for community service, his first instinct was to reject the honor.
If Kingsborough had his druthers, there would be no award ceremony at an upcoming City Council meeting, and this article would not exist. That's not because he's ungrateful; he simply doesn't see the need to be recognized for work that he does out of a sense of obligation as a productive citizen.
"I'm not one that wants to bring attention to myself," Kingsborough said. "That's not my goal in life, not my place in life.
"I just feel like other people have done so much more than I have."
Kingsborough's fellow community members would beg to differ. When Kingsborough told Citizen Engagement Coordinator Courtney Flynn that he'd prefer not to accept the award, she told him that was impossible given that the vote had been unanimous between both the award committee and the City Council.
And so Kingsborough relented. While a prior commitment kept him from attending the mayor's State of the City Address — when the award is normally given out — Kingsborough will be honored at a City Council meeting in April. The exact date has yet to be finalized.
The award — named after West Linn's founder — was created in 2013 to "recognize individuals who contribute to the quality of life in the community without reward or recognition." To name the award after Moore was fitting; though he founded the city, Moore chose to name it after friend and mentor Dr. Lewis Linn.
It takes just a quick glance at Kingsborough's volunteer resume to see why his fellow community members were so adamant about his selection. A member of West Linns Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for the last nine years, Kingsborough has worked tirelessly alongside other longtime volunteers to rebuild trails and remove invasive species at Mary S. Young Park. He's also heavily involved in the Oregon State Grange community organization and has advocated on behalf of the Willamette River being incorporated into the National Water Trail Network.
"He has been described as the best docent for Mary S. Young Park, one to always wish others a friendly 'good morning' and, most importantly, an individual who works constantly to serve others," West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod said during his State of the City speech Feb. 26.
Kingsborough's volunteer efforts began shortly after he retired from the United States Postal Service in 2004.
"I started in Mary S. Young Park," he said. "It's a great place to walk my dog, so as I walked on the trails I would knock the blackberry vines and nettles back. My thought was so the kids wouldn't have a negative experience getting cut with blackberries and stuff like that."
One day, he ran into a resident named Dave Kruse — now a fellow Robert Moore Award winner — and that was when his volunteer efforts truly took off at Mary S. Young Park.
"Dave Kruse had a plan to rebuild the trails and start removing invasive plants from the park, and I just joined him," Kingsborough said.
As the group expanded, one resident brought a John Deere tractor to help with the heavy lifting. When that volunteer had to step away due to a bad back, Kingsborough took over as tractor operator — a role he shares with his poodle, Riley.
"I wear shorts, I drive the tractor and I have a well-behaved poodle," Kingsborough said. "That combination makes me stand out. I don't do as much work as the other guys on the crew do."
Kingsborough does admit that the park has undergone a thrilling transformation since his volunteer work started.
"It's magnificent," he said. "The trails are passable 12 months out of the year — you can walk on those trails without getting muddy and dirty 12 months a year now. We have removed tons of invasive plants, blackberries, garlic mustard, ivy, various other plants — and we have planted thousands of plants."
Why parks? Kingsborough — who was raised in the Robinwood area back when it was still known as part of "Oswego" — returned to West Linn in 1990 and said his passion for this particular field of volunteering dates back to when he was raising his five children.
"As my children were growing up we spent a lot of time in parks," Kingsborough said. "Not just playing on swings and whatnot, but baseball practice, soccer practice, games.
"I just feel like I got a lot from the parks and now it's time for me to pay back."
He's also been shaped by his time with The Grange — a 150-plus year-old national group that was founded as a rural farm organization and has evolved to support community involvement in a variety of areas.
"I feel as though every citizen should participate at some level," Kingsborough said. "That doesn't mean you have to be on city council or parks board or something, but (citizens) need to listen and put in their two cents, their ideas. That's the only way our country goes forward, stays the way we are. That's kind of The Grange philosophy, as well as my philosophy."
Kingsborough joins former Robert Moore winners Larry McIntyre, Dave Kruse, Lisa Clifton and Alexana Kachirisky.