Beaverton's Highland and Five Oaks/Triple Creek association committees are honored by Neighborhoods, USA, for neighborliness and beautification efforts.

David Kamin wanted to help clean up the downed trees and other debris left by a windstorm in a park more than a decade ago.

John Dugger simply wanted his neighbors to know each other better and to get more active.

Their efforts, aided by grants and staff effort from Beaverton's neighborhood and public involvement program, resulted in recent national awards from Neighborhoods, USA. Portland and Eugene are other Oregon members of the nonprofit based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Kamin and Dugger talked about the work of their neighborhood association committees (NACs) during a Beaverton City Council meeting on Sept. 18, when they presented the awards they received at the nonprofit's 2018 conference in Birmingham, Ala.

"At the awards ceremony, there was one city in the entire country that had two finalists – and that was Beaverton," Dugger said. "That speaks to our priorities, our neighborliness, and our commitment to each other through the trust that you place in your neighborhood associations."

Both also gave credit to Miles Glowacki, the city's neighborhood and public involvement coordinator, and staff members Lani Parr and Emily Van Vleet.

Kamin is chairman of the Five Oaks/Triple Creek neighborhood committee in northwest Beaverton, and Dugger is chairman of the Highland neighborhood committee in central Beaverton.

Beaverton has a total of 11 such committees.

"Beaverton's neighborhood program is hard to find a match for," Councilor Marc San Soucie said.

Park restoration

Five Oaks/Triple Creek won a first place for neighborhood beautification.

Kamin's involvement goes back to 2007, when a windstorm left a lot of downed trees and debris in a nearby park. He called the city — but park services in Beaverton and nearby unincorporated communities are provided by the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District.

"Rather than complain, they decided to do something about it," Mayor Denny Doyle said in an introductory video.

What began as a cleanup was transformed into a restoration over a decade with the planting of more than 4,000 native species and removal of invasive species, such as blackberry vines, from Autumn Ridge Park and Willow Creek Greenway.

Kyle Spinks, a ranger for the park district, said the restoration of native species has led to more diversity among wildlife.

"Volunteer labor is very important to help us do the work," he said. "Without the volunteer labor, we would not be able to afford the plants that are provided for these habitat restoration projects.

Several middle and high school students also are featured in the video.

"The park is basically an outdoor classroom for service organizations and schools," Kamin said. "This park also has been used to develop leadership, especially in the young."

Work parties have continued in the parks.

Neighborhood walks

Highland won a second place for neighborliness.

Unlike Five Oaks/Triple Creek, Highland is an older, well-established neighborhood that sees few development applications. Dugger, the NAC chairman, says one or two proposals may come up in a typical year — and attendance at NAC meetings was correspondingly low.

Dugger said he started his effort to rejuvenate the committee by organizing a walking tour of the neighborhood featuring some of the city's oldest trees, including redwoods. With only word of mouth to promote it, he said, nearly 100 people showed up for the 3-mile tour. Some neighbors even set up tables in front of their homes to explain the history of their trees.

"What was magical was that people who normally do not talk to each other were communicating," Dugger said.

That tour was followed up by a similar walk, this one concentrating on architecture, which drew about the same number of people and some homeowners opening up their homes.

Later, on Thanksgiving, Highland sponsored a "turkey trot" with a 5-kilometer walk and run.

"We thought we would bring people together, get them talking," Dugger said.

It worked. Dugger said attendance at NAC meetings now ranges between 20 to 30 people.

"Even better than the numbers, they are engaged. There is energy and an excitement level," he said, which could lead to the neighborhood undergoing a visioning process and setting goals, much as the entire city did.

"All of those things happened because of the pilot walk series we did."

Councilor Lacey Beaty lives in the Highland neighborhood.

"You are on the right path. Our neighbors want to come out and do things together," she said. "The idea of coming to and sitting at a meeting, besides all of us who do it professionally, is horrible for people. So when we get neighbors out doing things with families together, it's a win-win."

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