In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to give a nod to a mother we can all be grateful for—Mother Nature.
Here in Lake Oswego it seems she has quite a few friends. Over 700 in fact – stewardship program volunteers who got down and dirty last year all in the name of restoring our natural areas. What drives them to pick up a shovel and gloves, brave the elements at times, and tackle jobs that could have been featured on one of the tamer episodes of the former Dirty Jobs TV show?
“Stewardship volunteers know they make a difference in the health of a living forest,” explains Babs Hamachek, Lake Oswego’s Parks Stewardship Coordinator.Unlike some volunteer efforts where it’s difficult to gauge a person’s impact, stewardship volunteers can see the direct results of their contributions.
For Heidi Schrimsher it has meant, “Watching parks evolve from ivy and blackberry infested deserts to biodiverse microcosms, and making these areas accessible to our community.”
With a masters in landscape architecture Schrimsher seems like a perfect fit for this line of work but the spectrum of volunteers is quite diverse. “My favorite work parties include parents with kids of all ages (including young ones that are more interested in finding worms than anything), high school kids looking for community service hours and empty nesters,” explains Schrimsher. “These diverse neighbors, who would likely never interact, get together in the park for the same purpose – to act as stewards of the land.”
So what kind of dirty work do these volunteers actually do? Urged on by the battle cry, “Free the Trees!” much of their time is spent pulling English Ivy off trees and removing other invasives such as Himalayan Blackberry and Travels Joy Clematis that smother native plants.
Once areas are cleaned up, volunteers can plant native species and help with other projects that protect the natural area of the park like spreading mulch or picking up debris. Thirty-five work parties were held last year, usually lasting for two hours on a Saturday or Sunday.
Mother Nature isn’t the only one that profits from these good deeds. The volunteers themselves get to exercise outdoors, meet new people who share their environmental values, and enjoy the health benefits of being in nature such as: stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, increased ability to focus, and increased energy level. As Hamachek explains, “It’s a win/win for the volunteers and the natural areas.”
Check out stewardship volunteer opportunities online. Work parties are drop-in and tools are provided.
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