It’s a wet winter morning at Hoyt Arboretum. As I enter the library I am greeted warmly with smiles, familiar chit chat, and the scent of coffee while Tuesday Crew waits to hear about where they’ll be working in the park today. Curator Martin enters the room, his quiet, authoritative voice captures attention as he describes how we’ll spend the next four hours.
A rivulet has formed down Fir and White Pine Trails, and many grunts in recognition of this problem echo around the room. Becky, Hoyt’s volunteer coordinator, pipes up with “I’ve been calling it Hoyt Canyon,” and everyone laughs. We’ll be repairing the trail: digging drainage to divert water, leveling ground, and packing gravel.
Once instructions have been given, the room rumbles as everyone gets up and heads out to the maintenance yard for supplies. Loaded up, we make our way to the day’s work site. While we wait for Martin to arrive with a Kubota full of gravel, Portland Parks staff, Russell points out a hefty patch of invasive blackberry growing along the edge of the trail that needs to be pulled. Without another word, the Tuesday Crew hops to, clipping, pulling, and digging up the tangles of thorny vines.
I get a nasty poke though my gloves. Mac notices and shows me where to grab the blackberry at the branching intersection where there are no thorns–a trick he’d learned recently from Des, who has been volunteering with the Tuesday Crew for 19 years!
Steve L. rounds the corner exclaiming “paparazzi coming through,” as he captures this community and the work they do with the camera on his phone. He joins me in untangling a vine from a small maple that seems like it’s about a mile long.
The crew makes quick work of the invasives in this section, Stu, carrying the last big tangle of vines to the pile sighs and says “it’s really too bad blackberry grows in disturbed ground. We maybe just did it a favor, but we’ll be back to clear it again.”
Some grab shovels and begin to break up the hard ground around the rivulets to even out the area. Others get to work digging trenches and building water bars to redirect water from future storms.
All the while park visitors pass by on morning walks with friends. Everyone is impressed and thank the hard-working crew.
I bop around from job to job but am ultimately assigned to spread gravel with a rake to reform the trail. I am joined by Steve S., who’s wife Kerry volunteers in the Visitor Center and nudged him toward the crew as a retirement hobby.
Mark and Bob oversee unloading gravel from the bed of the Kubota while we spread.
Des and I joke about the hard work. He mentions that he’s turning his property into a mini-arboretum and is used to this kind of labor, but he’d have taken a coffee break by now if he was at home.
This week is Wonseup’s second on the crew, and she says she loves the hard work–last week was too easy. She laughs and looks down at her mud-covered Dr. Martens.
Kieran, who was once Martin’s summer intern, makes friends with all the dogs that pass by. He tells me his family is considering getting a golden retriever this year.
I gather these glimpses into the crew members’ lives between Kubota loads of gravel–all the while Garth packs it down with a plate compactor—he gives nods of approval for the work we’ve done as he passes. It’s slow, physically taxing work, but we make it all the way down the trail. The difference is impressive.
Everyone on Tuesday Crew has a different reason for being there. Wynne is here for the first time today, and says she was looking for something physical to do outside with a community. She plans to be back.
This a tight community formed around the satisfying work of stewarding the Arboretum we all love and have our own connections to.
In 2022, Tuesday Crew contributed 2,052 hours toward volunteer stewardship at the Arboretum. This is 57% of all volunteer stewardship hours, from a team of about 15 regular folks. So far, in 2023 Tuesday Crew is growing, and this January day hosted a group of 21 volunteers.
It was a pleasure to live a day in their muddy boots, and my appreciation for the work they do every week has grown. Thank you, Tuesday Crew!
About the Author
Rebekah Golden is the Communications Coordinator for Hoyt Arboretum Friends (HAF). Before her work with HAF, Rebekah earned a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. She moved to Portland where she worked with partners to launch a business that brought increased awareness to local bees and pollinators.