Volunteer groups maintain many of the City's 250 acres of open space and natural areas

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW  - Bill Wilkins removes invasive ivy near the parking lot entrance of Wilderness Park. The 52-acre section of trees and trails spanning three of West Linn's biggest neighborhoods should stick out like a sore thumb, but Susan Tarvin and her husband Bill Wilkins see Wilderness Park as an often-overlooked gem of the City.

In the few years that they've lived down the road from the Wilderness Park, they've walked its trails at least once a day with their dog Kona. But they said they've come across many long-time West Linn residents who don't even realize the park is there.

In the past several months Tarvin and Wilkins began to notice that Wilderness Park could do with some upkeep. On their many walks through the park, they came across a man pulling invasive ivy off of trees along the trails. They asked if he would like any help but he told them he preferred to work alone. In January, they realized he had stopped coming to Wilderness Park and decided to take up the work in his absence.

Wilkins began pulling ivy off of trees as he passed by on their walks.

In addition to invasive plants crowding the parks trails and choking out some of the native trees, Tarvin and Wilkins have noticed a few other problems in Wilderness Park.

"Last week we spent some time just picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot," Tarvin said. "...First of all, it looks bad and secondly it's a fire risk."

They also recently noticed someone dumping old car parts in the parking lot.

"We don't want this park to become a dumping ground and a kind of place where risky behavior is tolerated," Tarvin said.

About a month ago Tarvin told the West Linn City Council and members of City staff about the work she and Wilkins thought ought to be done at Wilderness Park.

"We just didn't see much work being done here," she said.

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW  - Susan Tarvin and Bill Wilkins walk their dog in Wilderness Park at least once a day and have formed a group of volunteers called Friends of Wilderness Park.

At the advice of Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester and Assistant Director Ken Warner, Tarvin and Wilkins decided to form the Friends of Wilderness Park.

As the Friends of Wilderness Park, Tarvin and Wilkins have dedicated themselves to working weekly in the park and invite anyone who is interested to join them.

In coordination with SOLVE Oregon—an organization that organizes volunteer events to preserve Oregon's natural environment—they will also be hosting a larger work party 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 28.

Tarvin said the Friends of Wilderness Park has also received a good deal of support from Rosemont Summit Neighborhood Association, who will help them out at the September SOLVE clean up.

The City of West Linn told Tarvin and Wilkins it could help by providing gravel and woodchips for the trails, which once had wood chips. The City could also provide a bin for dumping debris.

"At this point we're still trying to figure out how to generate community interest," Tarvin said.

Aside from gathering more support from the community, Tarvin said her first goal for the park is to clear invasive plants in the area visible from the parking lot.

Wilkins said eventually they want to start clearing back the ivy that's been creeping up on some of the park's trails. They'd also like a working drinking fountain and possibly a bench or two.

They've also asked the City of West Linn to remove any dead or potentially hazardous trees, and have seen some progress on hazardous tree removal by the City.

Cleaning up the park is important to Tarvin because she and Wilkins live a block away and come every day, she said.

The parks department has over 250 acres it classifies as "passive-oriented" or "natural resource area," including Wilderness Park. The department found in its research for the new 20-year parks and rec master plan that these areas are important to community members.

"Workshop participants emphasized the need to invest in natural area protection, especially in light of pressure from new development," the master plan states. "Suggestions included acquiring natural areas near developing properties and restoring compromised wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas."

With a budget that works out to about $55 per acre for natural areas and open spaces, Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said the parks department leans on the half a dozen groups like the Friends of Wilderness Park for a lot of maintenance to stretch each dollar as far as possible. He said there are similar groups for Maddax Woods, Mary S. Young Park and Burnside Park as well as a group that works the open spaces near the Skyline Ridge neighborhood. He also mentioned growing support from some neighborhood associations.

"It doesn't mean we don't do some work ourselves, but we typically use groups like Northwest Youth Corps and some other kind of conservation type groups and even Project Payback, which is a juvenile offender program, so we can hire youth crews to work in some of our other areas," Worcester said.

The Friends of Wilderness Park will host their weekly work days Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon.

To learn more and to register for the SOLVE clean up, interested volunteers can go to the SOLVE website.

Water, coffee and gloves will be provided but volunteers can also bring their own gloves and clippers.

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