Volunteers from the Wildwood Neighborhood Association gather around the new Adopt-a-Park sign at the Wildwood Neighborhood Park in Vancouver. From rear left are John Gray, Judi Bailey, Shane Gardner, Charlotte Lamb and Charles Lamb. From front left are Kaden Gardner, Jack Nagel and Elias Gardner. Association members have been sprucing up their local park.
The Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Department is accepting Adopt-a-Park applications for this spring and summer. To learn more, call 360-487-8344 or visit Parks and Recreation Volunteer Program.
The Wildwood Park in Vancouver has plenty to offer: playground equipment, swings and a grassy field to run around on. But members of the Wildwood Neighborhood Association noticed recently that the park was becoming rough around the edges.
Parts of the 3-acre park were overgrown with ivy. The playground equipment looked dingy and was marked with graffiti. Leaves, weeds and downed branches littered the ground.
The neighborhood association decided to adopt the park for at least a year through a new program run by the Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Department. Nine other groups have adopted a park through the program, but Wildwood is the first neighborhood association to do so.
"We really feel like neighborhood parks are amazing assets in our community," said Vancouver's Neighborhoods Program Manager Judi Bailey, a resident of the Wildwood Neighborhood. "There were a few neighbors who noticed that maintenance levels in the park had changed, and they were interested in keeping the park looking good."
The group's efforts to spruce up the park began a few months ago. At their past three work parties, they've planted 10 new trees, and collected more than 30 bags of yard debris and eight bags of ivy. They also plan on putting down a new layer of bark chips, pulling up the weeds and mulching the flower beds.
Their new duties don't take an overwhelming amount of their time; they gather at the park one Saturday each month, said Shane Gardner, chairman of the Wildwood Neighborhood Association. The number of volunteers at each work party ranged from four to 10.
Fixing up the park shows that the neighborhood association is vigilant and that it cares about its community, Gardner said. He said he hopes other neighborhood associations follow suit.
"The park is smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood," he said. "When it's been maintained, people notice. … There's great pride in ownership when we end up doing (the work) ourselves."
The city's adopt-a-park program began in late 2011 to help out Vancouver Public Works' grounds and maintenance crews. Volunteers can adopt a park in Vancouver or in unincorporated Clark County.
The decision in 2011 to allow volunteers to help maintain parks was made in the wake of ongoing budget cuts that reduced parks maintenance staff by more than half in the previous two years. Without additional volunteer or financial support, the parks faced reduced irrigation and other vital maintenance.
Since the adopt-a-park program started, volunteers have dedicated about 1,700 hours of their time to beautifying local parks.
Through the program, Bailey said, "I've met many new neighbors, I've increased my appreciation of the park, and we're planning to have a celebration of our efforts in the park when the weather gets warmer."
That celebration will likely include a barbecue, neighborhood association members said.
"This is a great way to build community, to help the city, to beautify your parks," Hailey Heath, volunteer coordinator for the city of Vancouver, said. "We are thankful that the Wildwood Neighborhood Association has stepped up to adopt the park and look forward to building this program with the support of community volunteers."
Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or firstname.lastname@example.org