Who takes care of your local park? Chances are, it’s your city parks department.
And how’s that working for you? If your city is like mine, the parks department is suffering from budget cuts…which means less maintenance, patrols and care. Here in Portland, our city parks are a source of pride. Every neighborhood has a park. And there are appointed positions available for “Volunteer Coordinators.” These folks are average people…who spend time in parks and agree to coordinate between the city and the volunteers. This often involves sending emails and meeting with the parks department on parks issues.
Marilyn is one such person. OK, maybe she is above average. She is truly a park steward who knows every plant, tree and rock in the park. As a retired Botanist and University Professor, she is over-qualified for the job. And I’m so grateful…since I can ask her anything! Mainly, I’m grateful that she’s willing to be the contact point for the parks department about tasks for volunteers to help maintain the park (last month it was spreading mulch and small plantings). Marilyn sends out the monthly reminders to the volunteer list and shows up on the volunteer day. We also receive a gracious letter following the workday that thanks everyone who showed up (complete with pictures) celebrating the success of the day. While she is involved in other aspects of our neighborhood, this is her role as Volunteer Coordinator, or as I like to call her, the Park Steward.
Marilyn has also inspired other community members to become coordinators of their neighborhood parks. Her advice to them is this. 1) Have a partner so you can divide up the duties, especially the outreach (this may include volunteer organizations and local media). 2) Have a calendar. 3) Have an email list that includes the parks department. 4) Each group will develop from within, so figure out what works well for you and your group. Sometimes it’s having fewer events.
For a few hours a month, Marilyn impacts thousands of people who experience the park. For her, it’s just what she does. For me, it’s a tremendous inspiration knowing she’s one of many caring and committed citizens in my neighborhood.