Soil and water

Volunteers bring native plants to Englewood Park

Since 2017, Northeast Neighbors and volunteer groups have worked to transform the park by creating a pollinator garden to attract native bees. A recent task force focused on removing invasive growth and replacing it with native species.

Volunteers examine a divot during a work shift in Englewood Park on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Gerald Patrickson/Special to Salem Reporter)

More than two dozen pairs of happy hands attacked the overgrown growth on the east side of Salem’s Englewood Park on Saturday as part of an ongoing campaign to create a pollinator garden.

Volunteers, under the direction of Northeast Neighbors co-chair Lynn Takata, have resumed digging up various weeds and non-native vegetation such as English ivy to replace them with native bee-friendly plants called “pollinators”.

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Westcott takes a break from digging up an invasive plant in 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 augment the native habitat in the park, as well as to add suitable plants to support pollinators such as bees. It was inspired after the neighborhood association hosted the Englewood Forest Festival in the park in 2017.

The neighborhood association received encouragement from Kasia Quillinan, former president of the Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. She shared that the council is looking for ways to reduce the city’s maintenance costs for the park.

Thanks to dedicated volunteers, a successful ongoing project to bring some nature back to Salem’s urban environment has continued to this day.

The list of suggested plants was compiled by Takata, Marion Soil and Water Conservation District and Patricia Farrell, City of Salem Parks and Natural Resources Planning Officer. Brian Smith, City of Salem Horticulturist, also provided support.

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

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

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

Rehabilitation work takes place once a month from November to June, and residents bordering the park support the project with hand watering during the summer as there is no sprinkler system.

Takata said future work will include extending native plants to both sides of the east entrance on 21st Street Northeast, and one resident wants to “adopt” their side of the driveway in the park for s take care of this piece of land when finished.

Some of the plants that have been reintroduced are sword fern, Indian plum, black currant bushes, 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 shrubs, 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 this part of the wilderness.

If you would like to join the park effort, contact Takata at [email protected]

Gerald Patrickson is a Salem-based writer and photographer.

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