At Progress Ridge in south Beaverton, one such union between the Park District and New Seasons Market may yield environmental results as sweet as anything ever produced by Ben & Jerry.
New Seasons is the only for-profit corporation officially enrolled in the Park District’s Adopt-a-Park program. On Sept. 30, about 20 volunteers from “the friendliest store in town” participated in their first project -- removing invasive plants from the hillside above the creek at nearby Barrows Park.
In keeping with the spirit of brand, New Seasons has committed to complete one new project each season at the park site.
“We were looking for a community-based project that was local and that supported our belief in taking care of neighbors, the environment and one another,” said Sam Spragens, an assistant front end manager at New Seasons who is coordinating the volunteer project. “It’s been a very natural, organic partnership.”
Spragens learned about Adopt-A-Park when she participated in a small volunteer outing at Barrows Park with a few New Seasons colleagues this summer.
“Our community coordinator had left the company, and we were left with this scheduled event to clean up the creek,” Spragens remembers. “It sounded like a fine idea, but not many people had volunteered – there were five of us – and it was a cold and damp Sunday morning in July.”
Their spirits were quickly lifted by THPRD Park Ranger Kyle Spinks, who directed their efforts that day (and who will continue to work with the New Seasons team on upcoming volunteer projects).
“Kyle was awesome,” Spragens said. “I think we’re a pretty fun-loving group anyway, and he fi t right in. The humor that he added to the experience was fabulous, even when he was telling us ‘Hey, that’s a yellow jacket nest, don’t go over there!’”
Before long, Spragens said, the group was having a great time laughing, working and learning a few things along the way.
“Kyle was really knowledgeable,” she said. “Every time we’d pull up a different slug or snake, he’d point out what it was. It was very positive.”
When the project ended, Spinks suggested the Adopt-a-Park program to Spragens and store manager Jon Rich. They didn’t need much time to think it over.
“Jon and I looked at each other and said ‘Oh, what a great idea!’,” Spragens said.
She called Melissa Marcum, THPRD’s Natural Resources volunteer coordinator, to set up a meeting at which Marcum, Spinks, Spragens and Rich discussed adoption parameters.
“The meeting gives us an opportunity to establish what they’re hoping to get out of the partnership and to define goals so that participants in the program have something to look forward to and can develop a sense of accomplishment,” Marcum said.
The program requires groups to complete four projects during a year and contribute at least 60 hours of service. Six groups are currently enrolled. Additionally, 11 individuals are enrolled, each of whom must commit eight or more hours a month for six months or more.
With 20 volunteers enrolled for the three-hour project, New Seasons shouldn’t have a problem hitting its targets. The same level of participation year-round would yield 240 hours, which Marcum said is enough to remove a quarter-acre of blackberries, 5,000 square feet of ivy, and a quarter acre of non-native trees – a significant achievement.
“They’re getting a huge amount of work done with minimal staff input,” said Marcum. She believes that working with a visible company like New Seasons is a significant step for the Adopt-a-Park program.
“New Seasons has a big audience. When they are talking about their project, that provides a great public face for us,” Marcum said. “We don’t have to put as much time as we normally would into the recruitment and promotion of the program.”
From the store’s perspective, the project is a great community builder that was easy to initiate. Spragens noted that a handful of customers are interested in participating. Employees, she said, have additional motivation; they can contribute up to eight hours of paid volunteer time annually through the company’s Lend a Hand program. Word of mouth (and a few silly pictures) from July’s service project undoubtedly piqued interest as well.
“The next day we were all complaining about how sore we were, but we were also talking about how much fun we had,” Spragens said.
If you know of a company or community group that may want to be involved in THPRD’s Adopt-A-Park program, call Melissa Marcum at 503/629-6305.