Volunteers keep Olympia's parks in shape

Staff writerJuly 6, 2013 

07PARKCLEAN

Genevieve Becker (left), Olympia Parks stewardship specialist, and longtime volunteer Roberta Woods pull weeds and clear the tree circles during the Park Stewardship Program volunteer clean-up project at Sunrise Park in west Olympia on Saturday, July 6, 2013. "I like to devote myself to Saturday morning activities and to give back," said Woods, who has been volunteering at Olympia parks for 15 years. "I get a boost." The tree circles give the trees an advantage when competing for water, and helps park workers mow grass around the trees without damaging them, Becker said.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer Buy Photo

Olympia’s Roberta Woods has spent 15 years of Saturdays pitching in to help maintain city park lands. She’s worked in rain, shine or in the case of winter – cold.

“Winter it’s good for me to be outside in the rain and the dark,” Woods said. It’s better than sitting at home depressed, she said, laughing as she pulled weeds at the base of a tree in West Olympia’s Sunrise Park.

It was anything but winter Saturday as the warm sun beat down on Woods, four other volunteers and two parks employees. They spent the better of the morning weeding and picking up litter at the small park off Bing Street.

The Saturday work parties typically have a crew of about 20, but parks staff weren’t surprised by the dwindled numbers on a holiday weekend.

Toward the end of the school year, there can be as many as 100 volunteers – including high school students who use the volunteer opportunity for school credit.

The work parties have become so well attended the program has expanded to include Tuesdays and Fridays, according to Genevive Becker, lead stewardship specialist with the city.

“We meet with the lead maintenance people and see what needs to be done the most,” Becker said. “We have a lot of parks – over 40 in Olympia.”

Many of those parks are small, like Sunrise, meaning more places for volunteers to work throughout the year.

“We have more to maintain with individual parks because people care and wanted parks in this area,” Becker said.

Weeding the mulch beds was the easier of duties she’s had do to during her stint as a volunteer. The most difficult job is one that returns with a vengeance if unchecked: English ivy.

“The pilgrims brought it from England with them, and it’s a nasty invasive plant,” Becker said.

With temperatures reaching the 80s Saturday, the retired Department of Ecology marine biologist couldn’t think of a better way to spend her time than being outside.

“I do this for exercise and to keep me feeling good about myself,” Becker said.

“I’m giving something back.”

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476

ckrotzer@theolympian.com theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer

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