Dedicated neighbors help to care for a 50-acre park filled with natural beauty

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Mike Buck and the Friends of Iron Mountain have been honored by Lake Oswego with an Unsung Heroes award for their work to protect the natural area.Mike Buck is taking a crash course in nature.

The longtime Lake Oswego businessman is studying to become an Oregon Master Naturalist, which involves taking a rigorous course offered through Oregon State University. It was a predictable next step for a long-time outdoorsman who has thrown himself into local preservation.

“I think it’s wanting to know this area and wanting to know my state in a more familiar way, a more knowledgeable way, in a way that I could communicate with others the importance and significance of what we have,” Buck says. “I’ll be speaking from a more scientific base, and a more aesthetic base, to really appreciate the beauty of it.”

For the last decade and a half, Buck has been part of a group committed to the stewardship of the natural area along the north side of Iron Mountain, roughly from the Lake Oswego Country Club to the Lake Oswego Hunt Club. Now known as Friends of Iron Mountain, the group was founded in 2001, a grassroots objection to the proposed development of three parcels along Brookside Road.

“Neighbors got together, because that’s such a rich resource area with the creek here, and being so near the entry to the park, so we worked together to have the city purchase that,” says Buck, who owns the popular Gubanc’s Pub restaurant in Lake Grove. “Then in 2003, the neighbors got together and formed a steering committee for what was then called Friends of Brookside.”

This launched what has become a tradition of work parties to make the acreage “a more natural habitat environment.”

Now a subcommittee of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, the group expanded its view in 2011.

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Mike Buck pulls ivy along the Springbrook Trail in Iron Mountain Park. The next work party is planned for Saturday, March 21, from 1 to 3 p.m.“That was when the sewer interceptor was being built, and the city needed to use the staging area behind the Hunt Club,” Buck says. That inspired the Friends “to take a wider look at the whole park” and ultimately become Friends of Iron Mountain.

Today, the group boasts more than 60 members, including a core group of 10 volunteers — Buck, Kristin Engstrom, Debbie Thomas, Joan Quentin Cox, Joy Prideaux, Ann Janzen, Doug Hawley, Sarah Kay, Dan Work and Anna Maria Dettmer — who were honored by the city of Lake Oswego in December 2014 with an Unsung Heroes award.

The wealth of natural resources — and natural beauty — in the wetlands and riparian areas they care for has always been obvious. There’s the diversity of plant life, for one: There are oak savannas, madrone trees, ponds, forests, a riparian corridor. At least one chocolate lily. White rock larkspurs. Doug firs. Cedar, ash and cottonwood trees.

Then there are the creatures that inhabit the park: deer, Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks and acorn woodpeckers, just to name a few.

But that’s not all the nearly 50-acre park has to offer.

“I think Iron Mountain can really be set aside not just as a park, but as a heritage site,” Buck says. “There’s a history of iron mines between two really old basalt slows, so it provides a really interesting geological history and background.”

As Buck’s studies give him a deeper knowledge of the park, he finds the group’s mission increasingly important.

“There’s an affinity people have to really be outside, breathe fresh air, enjoy the birds, the flora and the fauna,” he says. “What’s so important is that we need the outside to go inside. We need to feel it, we need to know it, we need to love it, and see how we can actually nourish it and not degrade it.”

“That’s the dilemma we’re in,” he adds. “How do we use it in a way that helps to enhance it, and not degrade or over-use it?”

Friends of Iron Mountain does its part by continuing a tradition of work parties — largely to remove invasive species. Last year, the group worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to create a natural resources management plan, dividing up 55 acres in and around the park that they would take care of, and specifying what the city would be responsible for.

“(The Friends of Iron Mountain) chose areas that are low in liability, very little poison oak so people aren’t vulnerable,” Buck says. “And areas that have the best ‘bang for the buck’ — where we can get a lot of work done in a short period of time and really help the park manifest itself for the future.”

The Friends of Iron Mountain will host the next work party on Saturday, March 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. to remove ivy from the forest floor. For more information, contact Buck at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“The ivy extraction isn’t too difficult, but it’s a workout,” Buck says, explaining that ivy must be yanked by the roots. “I don’t ski or belong to a health club — I don’t need to. Being out there is just really good for your health.”

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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