Volunteer Program IMPACT REPORT 2020

Getting Creative During COVID

2020 was a year of uncertainty and change. With new and ever-shifting restrictions, the Parks and Open Space Volunteer Program could no longer host large all-comer events and, sadly, many of our events with kids were off the table. At the same time, our parks saw more use than ever before, putting a huge strain on our daily operations staff to keep parks clean and safe. Throughout it all though, we found creative ways to keep our volunteers engaged. For many of them, volunteering was a lifeline—it gave them a sense of purpose when our whole world turned upside down.

Total volunteer hours - 11,680

Valued at $317,696*

*Hourly rate is valued at $27.20 per hour per independentsector.org

393 events at 58 locations

540 trees planted

2,750 shrubs/forbs planted

102 cubic yards of litter collected

1 mile of trail maintained

164 miles of waterway maintained


As the State of Oregon placed restrictions on gatherings, individual volunteers found a safe haven by working in our parks alone. Despite the solitude, or perhaps, because of it, weeding, picking up trash, watering trees, or even cleaning birdbaths provided a huge emotional and physical sense of wellbeing.

Young at heart, Phyllis Hammel celebrated her 93rd birthday with her fellow regular Tuesday volunteers at Hendricks Park in October. Phyllis has volunteered for over 10 years at the park and is a passionate devotee of public gardens, baked goods and her landscape drawings. Dean Rea is a retired school teacher who, at 91, found a new purpose maintaining the grounds around the Campbell Senior Center. Once that was finished, he hopped over to the Owen Rose Garden where he spent 50 hours weeding and pruning.

Phyllis Hammel and Greta Keye at Hendrick's Park, prior to the state mask mandate.

School may be virtual but Greta Keye’s volunteer service this year was as real as it gets. A lifelong neighbor of Hendricks Park, this high school student finished out her senior year and the summer with countless hours volunteering in the Rhododendron and Native Plant Gardens and Forest. When everything else was canceled, Greta found ways to still be involved in her community.

Veteran volunteers Elizabeth Koch and Rebecca McCroskey contributed nearly 400 hours in 2020 at Hendrick’s Park, Owen Rose Garden, the Native Plant Nursery, Alton Baker Park, Amazon Creek and Delta Ponds. With reduced staffing and the inability to train new volunteers, their support and expertise was invaluable.

Elizabeth Koch and Rebecca McCroskey at the Native Plant Nursery

Do you feel safer volunteering alone? Contact our program and we can set you up with a project of your own. Tasks may include weeding specific garden beds, pruning perennial shrubs, taking care of newly planted trees, eradicating invasive plants, cleaning native seed and more.

When we officially entered Phase II of reopening in May, our regularly scheduled events and adoption groups were permitted to resume. We required RSVPs, volunteers brought their own tools, and of course, everyone masked up and kept physically distant.

Do you want to volunteer at one of our regular events? RSVPs are required.

Take a peek at the hardworking volunteers at the Owen Rose Garden

Adoption Groups

Total volunteer hours by adoption groups: 2,179

Do you want to make an improvement to a park in your neighborhood? Adoption groups provide infinite support throughout our park system. Contact our program and we can help you design a workplan as well as provide tools and supplies. See all our adoption groups.

One of our many partnership groups, Friends of Moon Mountain, worked tirelessly over the summer and into the fall trenching out and putting the final touches on a new trail ascending from the top viewpoint of Moon Mountain.

In the middle of a pandemic, Friends of Tugman Park created a renewed partnership agreement with Parks to help steward the 20-acre park. Since September, the Friends have stewarded more than 20 trees, weeded countless beds, picked up yards of trash and planted 40 iris bulbs.

Not even a pandemic can slow the Friends of Monroe Park. Ted Coopman showed up everyday with his bucket and litter stick to pick up trash around the park. And the neighbors brought their own tools to weed and mulch almost 1300 feet of landscaped beds that surround the whole park.

Friends of Awbrey Park had to suspend their regular work parties in March of 2020, as most did. However, they resumed their efforts as soon as they could and have continued to dedicate their time on the first Saturday of every month. They bring together neighbors and friends to steward the natural area and creek by doing hordes of invasive species removal.

Despite the pandemic and the mandated hiatus to volunteering, Friends of Rasor Park contributed 560 hours of their time in 2020, managing invasive species and restoration plots at the park. Sometimes working full 8-hour days, they are absolutely imperative to the improved health and beauty of the park. Due to their efforts, Rasor Park has become a highly accredited birdwatching location.

The Friends of Hendricks Park continued their steadfast support of the botanical gardens and urban forest. Since we couldn’t offer snacks up to our volunteers due to safety precautions, they pre-purchased more than 100 $5 gift cards to Sweet Life Bakery which they raffled off each week to regular volunteers. Way to support local businesses and the sugar intake of volunteers in one fell swoop!

Although not an official adoption group, the Volunteer Program and Long Tom Watershed Council has regularly partnered with the Boy Scouts Troop 12 to plant and water riparian shrubs and forbs at Empire Park, a new acquisition for the City and an important storm water repository. They have planted more than 300 plants so far, and are so excited to continue to visit the park to witness the fruits of their labor.

Dispersed Events

In a normal year, our events can draw hundreds of volunteers. With COVID-19, we didn’t want to lose those eager volunteers but gatherings of that size were obviously out of the picture. Instead, we created a model to disperse larger events over a longer time period or a greater geographical space while still keeping everyone safe.

Bushnell University students at State Street Park

Bushnell University’s “Embrace the Community” day looked a little different this year. Instead of hosting a large group of students at a single park, we chose four different locations to spread everyone out. Students cleaned up State Street Park, painted 300 feet of fence line at Wayne Morse Dog Park, removed blackberries at Hendricks Park, and mulched 50 trees in the Whilamut Natural Area.

Willamette River Festival” is an annual event held in August of each year usually bringing hundreds of people to the river for a day of recreation, education and stewardship activities. This year, we coordinated a two-week long opportunity that included a paddle cross race, ivy removal on the banks, litter pick-up in rafts, streamed education videos including those with our Native American partners and a geocache search. Over 3,800 people engaged with the festival by way of active participation (i.e. paddle cross race, geocache, stewardship, Bioblitz) or passive through Facebook, Instagram, or video views.

The “Great Willamette River Cleanup,” with our partners Willamette Riverkeeper, usually draws river devotees from Oakridge to Portland in a collective cleanup of the waterway during a one-day event. This year, multiple cleanups were held over the month of October where volunteers joined in small group “Quaran-teams." By adapting to state-mandated restrictions, we were still able to remove over 30 yards of garbage from the river, improving water and habitat quality for all our flora and fauna.

Great Willamette River Cleanup

Do you want to organize a COVID-safe day of giving with your workplace, church, or youth group? Contact our program for creative ways to host a team-building event while also giving back to the community and keeping everyone safe.

Community Gardens

Sometimes it takes a major interruption, like a pandemic, for us to appreciate the importance of basic skills – like how to grow your own food. In our community gardens, people are doing just that: turning the soil, planting seeds, watering plants, and harvesting fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. This year, there was an outpouring of interest from first-time gardeners and a firm belief from old gardeners that the gardens ought to remain open as an essential service during our COVID-19 response. Not only did the gardens thrive, but having a place to grow plants and dig into the soil gave people a place to find mental relief during a stressful year.

  • 6 community garden locations
  • 320 community gardeners in 2020
  • 48 new gardeners in 2020

Creative Community Partnerhips

The Mission’s Life Change program is a residential relapse prevention program geared towards men to help them reenter society with employment and housing. The group has historically volunteered monthly in our Community Gardens program, but this year they expanded their scope and volunteered in developed parks throughout the City. From cleaning up playgrounds, weeding landscaped beds, and mulching trees, these hardworking men found healing through giving back.

Our Volunteer Program was contacted by a former homeless person and current resident of Community Supported Shelters (CSS) in July of 2020, wanting to give back to the park land she had once called home, the Amazon Creek. Together, we coordinated a trash cleanup event to improve both water and habitat quality in an area where she still has a complicated, emotional connection to. Now sheltered, she walks Amazon Creek with her granddaughter daily and we were all proud to participate in this full-circle activity.

Go out, get dirty and give back in 2021. Visit our website to learn more see our upcoming events.