Volunteers examine a clod of dirt during a work party at Englewood Park on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Gerald Patrickson/Special to Salem Reporter)

More than two dozen pairs of happy hands attacked the invasive growth on the east side of Salem’s Englewood Park Saturday in an ongoing campaign to create a Pollinator Garden. 

The volunteers, under the direction of Northeast Neighbors Co-Chair Lynn Takata, resumed digging out various weeds and non-native vegetation such as English ivy to replace them with native bee-friendly plants known as “pollinators.”

Takata said that 95% of the 200-plus trees in the park are native to the area, which is also home to Englewood Elementary School. She has been involved with rehabilitating the park, established in 1926, with help from City of Salem and other interested parties since 2017.

The park’s bees, according to volunteer Jessica Westcott, nest underground during winter and come out during the summer.  

“We’re trying to increase (the number and variety of) plants to attract bees for pollinating, to help the bee population,” Westcott said.

Westcott has been involved with this project since 2017, when she began volunteering with a 4H group to get required volunteer hours for her Oregon State University forestry degree.

“It’s a great little neighborhood project,” she added. “Plants bloom at different times during the year for a continuous variety of color.”

Jessica Westcott takes a break while digging up an invasive plant at Englewood Park on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Gerald Patrickson/Special to Salem Reporter)

The idea for the Pollinator Garden originated five years ago when Northeast Neighbors hoped to beautify and increase native habitat in the park, as well as to add appropriate plants to support pollinators such as bees. It was inspired after the neighborhood association held the Englewood Forest Festival in the park in 2017.

The neighborhood association got encouragement from Kasia Quillinan, former chairperson of the Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. She shared that the board was seeking ways to reduce the city’s maintenance costs for the park. 

Because of dedicated volunteers, a successful ongoing project to bring back a little bit of nature in Salem’s urban environment has continued to this day.

The suggested plant list was developed by Takata, Marion Soil and Water Conservation District, and City of Salem Parks and Natural Resources planning manager Patricia Farrell. Brian Smith, City of Salem Horticulturist, has also been supportive.

 Funding and other support comes from a variety of local sources. Takata said there have been grants from Salem Parks Foundation and Salem Parks Improvement Foundation. She added that nurseries have donated native plants to help with the project.

“City of Salem Public Works has furnished wood chips, tools, and a list of native plants,” she added.

Lynn Takata checks out a red elderberry branch at Englewood Park on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Gerald Patrickson/Special to Salem Reporter)

Rehab work goes on once a month from November to June, and residents bordering the park support the project with hand watering during the summer because there is no sprinkler system.

Takata said future work will include extending native plants on both sides of the east entrance on Northeast 21st Street, and that one resident wants to “adopt” their side of the driveway into the park to care for that bit of land once it’s done.

Some of the plants that have been reintroduced are sword fern, Indian plum, currant shrubs, Oregon grape, and trillium, which is a ground cover flower.

In addition to the large number of mature native trees and recently added plants and bushes, Englewood Park is home to 85 species of birds. Cooper’s Hawks, White-Breasted Nuthatches, several species of owls, Brown Creepers, and eagles have been sighted in that bit of nature.

If you’re interested in joining the park endeavor, contact Takata at [email protected]

Gerald Patrickson is a writer and photographer based in Salem.

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