Volunteers purposely make a mess in Albany park

Volunteers purposely make a mess in Albany park

Students from a handful of majors at Oregon State University, including creative writing, forestry engineering and graphic design, all had something in common on the morning of Saturday, January 14:

They went down into the mud together.

About 15 students and other volunteers gathered, dripping, under gray skies in Albany where they were meticulously undoing the work of city public works workers.

Gustavo Velazquez, a recent transfer to OSU from a Portland-area school, said Saturday work wasn’t what he had in mind for his first academic quarter on the large Corvallis campus.

Volunteers gathered at Periwinkle Park Saturday morning, Jan. 14, 2023, in Albany as they participated in a park cleanup organized by the city’s Adopt-a-Park program.

Kylie Graham, Mid-Valley Media

Velazquez laughed and gestured to a thigh-high pile of rotting leaves. The brown mound gave off warm steam as his colleagues struck with shovels.

“It’s very different,” he said. “But I like it.”

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Velazquez said he was coming off two years of sitting in front of a computer, studying for classes taught online.

Effectively paying OSU so he could do landscaping seemed like a refreshing change.

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“I like to get out of my room,” Velazquez said.

Every year, the trees turn color and drop their leaves. And every year, Albany workers use large truck-mounted vacuum cleaners to vacuum up debris and haul it away in what is described as “a huge pile” at Timber Linn Memorial Park.

Department enforcers were spreading the leaves outside, across the ground near a pond in Periwinkle Park and along a stream of the same name near the former Mega Foods store on Queen Avenue Southeast.

The leaves will protect the small plants from excessive rain, sunlight and wind.

Diane Pearson, left, and Benajza Jones with mulch. Jones was among more than a dozen Oregon State University students who volunteered at Periwinkle Park in Albany on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, completing required hours for a geography class titled Sustainability for the Common Good.

Kylie Graham, Mid-Valley Media

The ground cover reduces weeds, volunteers said, and keeps the feet of ducks and people who gather near Periwinkle Pond from turning wet ground to mud.

But it’s all done with volunteers, said coordinator Jill Van Buren.

While city workers plan and build every park project that requires heavy bureaucratic or physical lifting, there simply aren’t enough of them to go around in Albany’s 36 parks.

Adopt-A-Park is, increasingly, vital to the function of Albany Parks & Recreation. Van Buren coordinates the program that complements widespread but overlooked work such as brush clearing, graffiti cleanup and leaf spreading.

Oregon State University forestry engineering student Kathy Young covers with shovels.

Kylie Graham, Mid-Valley Media

She retired from a long career in Benton and Linn county governments and is vice chair on the Albany parks commission.

“We absolutely need volunteers,” she said.

Students from a 300-level geology section stepped up.

Kathy Young, a forestry engineering student, said she was completing the community service hours required to pass the class titled Sustainability for the Common Good.

Gustavo Velazquez is a third-year horticulture major at Oregon State University.

Kylie Graham, Mid-Valley Media

Practicing sustainability appealed to Benajza Jones, an ecological engineering student who was picking berries in the park to fill her classes.

Born in California, Jones said she was introduced to brambles during a summer internship with a water resources engineering company in Oregon. She hadn’t seen the plants at home in the Central Valley.

“It lost almonds, grapes and raisins, but no blackberries,” she said.

Jones said she would like to use her experience to repair the connections between land and streams and make water bodies more suitable for fish.

She connects those habitats, often limited when cities fill in and cut off streams, with people now living in cities increasingly affected by contaminated drinking water, lack of access to public open spaces, summer heat and shortages. of the shadow.

These are issues of environmental justice and climate equity. Increasingly, fixing the problem for one – fish or person – means fixing the problem for the other.

“Many rivers we have are not passable for fish. They don’t meet the qualities we need in fish,” Jones said. “If we meet these qualities, then we will also have cleaner water for people in cities.”

Alex Powers (he/she) covers business, environment and health care for Mid-Valley Media. Call 541-812-6116 or email [email protected].

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