Photo above: Ken Bierly, Steve Braden and John Coffman display weeds removed from Salem Waldo’s park

For years, Salem’s Waldo Park, one of the smallest city parks in the world, was overrun by invasive ivy. But a dedicated team of volunteers and government staff has successfully worked to change all that.

Located at the corner of Summer St NE and Union St NE, the 12’ by 20’ park has for decades consisted of a giant sequoia tree planted by Marion County judge William Waldo in 1872 – growing from a thick and nearly impenetrable mat of ivy.

Enter the Salem No Ivy Coalition (SNIC), a group that fights invasives and supports native plantings with a lively and active Facebook presence and numerous enthusiastic work parties.

The Waldo Park conversion began several years ago, when City of Salem Parks Department’s Deborah Topp mentioned the troublesome ivy at a SNIC meeting. The group agreed that removing the detrimental ivy and restoring the site with native plants would be a fine contribution to the Salem community.

Given the park’s small parameters and its central location, says Margaret Stephens of the SNIC, the task appeared “not too hard  – we thought – and a great demonstration project.” The first volunteer work party was held April 22, 2015 (Earth Day).

“Many hardworking volunteers showed up, but we did not finish that day,” Stephens recalls. “The ivy was two feet deep with many tangled stems and roots. We had two other volunteer work parties in July and August 2015.” The City of Salem provided support to volunteers with tools, information and supplies.

After those parties, SNIC volunteer leaders had to return yet again to tackle more ivy roots that had resprouted – until eventually everything appeared clear. The City was able to spray for remaining ivy regrowth in Spring 2016. The site was covered with bark dust and on November 20, 2017, the park was replanted.

Plants were carefully selected by Topp and Jenny Meisel from the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District. They two focused on native and sturdy species. All were approved by Patricia Farrell of the City’s Parks Planning and Natural Resources Section and include Sword fern, Western columbine, Wild ginger, Woodland strawberry, Fringe cup, Inside out flower and Oxalis.

The park still needs periodic weeding, say SNIC volunteers such as Ken Bierly, John Coffman and Steve Braden, who were out in force to tidy up recently. But the native plants have survived their first winter and are expected to thrive in the coming warmer weather, restoring the park to an educational and attractive asset to the community.