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Consistent, devoted group of local volunteers maintain Gresham's hidden gem

COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF GRESHAM JAPANESE GARDEN  - Volunteers help maintain Tsuru Island as well as Ebetsu Plaza and the Ambleside Annex. In the back of Gresham's Main City Park lives a small three fourths acre known as the Gresham Japanese Garden.

Although many residents might be familiar with the calm and meticulously maintained landscape, few might know the tireless work done by volunteers that keep the garden pristine.

The nonprofit Friends of Gresham Japanese Garden is the organization in charge of maintaining the garden and is led by Jim Card. COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF GRESHAM JAPANESE GARDEN  - Friends of Gresham Japanese Garden volunteers work 600 hours on average each month.

The island garden itself has gone through ups and downs since it was gifted to the city by the Japanese American Citizens League in the 1970s as a living memorial for the Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans. At the time, the Japanese garden island included 5,000 rocks from the Columbia River and boulders from Johnson Creek.

Through its four decades of existence the garden had seen its fair share of vandalism including having a cherry tree burned down in the 80s.

In 2011 plans were laid out to revitalize the garden and return it to its former glory. Card, a former professional gardener, was put in charge of designing and helping construct the new garden in conjunction with the city. In 2014, with the help of many volunteers, the improved garden was unveiled with the new name of Tsuru Island. COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF GRESHAM JAPANESE GARDEN  - Volunteers help in nearly every aspect the garden from weeding, pruning, building structures and even learning traditional Japanese methods of fixing fences with twine.

Now the team of Card, Sue Hughes, Mary Taylor and hundreds of volunteers make sure the garden never falls into a state of disrepair again.

"We are all volunteers, no one here is paid," said Hughes, The Friends of Gresham Japanese Garden's marketing and communications representative. "Volunteers are everything to this garden, we wouldn't exist (without them)."

Hughes said volunteers have helped in nearly every aspect of maintaining the garden from weeding, pruning and even learning traditional Japanese methods of fixing fences with twine.

Although some of the work is intricate, Hughes said that anyone interested in helping is more then welcome to come give their time to the garden regardless of their experience.

"We don't ask for experience," Hughes said. "Our motto is lead with your heart and give with your hands because we will train you in most of the things we want done."

Hughes went on to say that the sense of service within the group's volunteers is extremely strong. An indication of that comes every Saturday when on average about 20 volunteers come to help maintain the garden. On average, the Friends of Gresham Japanese Garden volunteers work 600 hours each month.

On top of making sure Tsuru Island is well taken care of, volunteers also help maintain Ebetsu Plaza and the Ambleside Annex which are located deeper within the park.

John Harrold has been a volunteer at the garden since 2014. He got started working on the garden when a rotary club member told him about the new renovations going on. Harrold didn't skip a beat and decided to help anyway he could. Now, eight years later, Harrold still comes to the Saturday garden parties. COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF GRESHAM JAPANESE GARDEN  - The Japanese Garden's Saturday morning work parties draw on average about 20 volunteers.

"We all work really hard to maintain and weed the garden," Harrold said. "It is just something that started out with me being retired, but (volunteering at the garden) is just something that gets in your blood."


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