The heat wasn’t as bad as expected, but the invasive ivy was another story.
It’s been a year and a half since regular crews of volunteers got organized and attacked the lush landscape at Columbia Springs, a 100-acre greenspace, fish hatchery and environmental education center tucked away in east Vancouver.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began and the nonprofit agency paused its volunteer efforts, just two dedicated volunteers — Melissa Arnold and Tom Musser — have appointed themselves ongoing guardians of Columbia Springs’ greenery.
So Arnold and Musser were delighted to welcome a crew of 12 volunteers for a Saturday morning of not-too-hot labors along Columbia Springs’ hiking trails. “This is the first volunteer work party we’ve had here since the apocalypse,” Arnold said.
Musser, a retired manager of the Clark County Fair, led a group that cleared blackberry bramble from the Trillium Trail, and wheeled in barkdust to fortify trail sections that tend to get muddy. Arnold led a group to the Cedar Circle Trail and demonstrated the finer points of cutting, yanking and even sawing climbing vines away from the trees there.
“We want to release the trees,” said Arnold, who boasts the unusual title of retired zookeeper for the Oregon Zoo. “I’m just so used to taking care of animals and taking care of their habitat. That’s what I’m still doing.” Since she started volunteering at Columbia Springs, she said, she’s made some unusual bird sightings in the trees here.
English ivy gets a “bad rap,” Arnold said, because it’s widely misunderstood to be the type of ivy that climbs up and chokes trees to death. But the tree-climber is actually Irish ivy, she said.
How can you tell? Irish ivy is larger and wider, with shiny leaves and greenish veins, Arnold said. English ivy has smaller, thinner, non-shiny leaves with white veins — and it tends to crawl along the ground, not climb up trees.
The Saturday work party was billed as “stress relief and stewardship,” and volunteer Meridian Green thought that sounded about right.
“This is the stress-relief part,” Green said after triumphing over an arm-thick climbing vine, sawing through and prying it away from the tree it was choking. “There’s been a certain amount of stress involved in the end of the world.”
Green said she lives alongside a 10-acre, woodsy, public parcel that nobody is caring for. She wanted to get a little training at this volunteer outing before starting her own private ivy-pulling project, she said.
“Every time I walk there, I think, ‘These trees need some help,’” she said. “I wanted to learn what I should be doing.”