Rock Star Mary Kinnick
by Gayle Marechal
(Published March 2021)
Mt. Tabor Park is an island of green beauty in an urban setting, where such natural jewels often need help to shine.
Enter Mary Kinnick, a Friends of Mt. Tabor Park member since 2006 and a tireless advocate and activist for maintaining the park’s ecological health.
Mary was inspired by Tony Cole, a founding member of Friends of Mt. Tabor Park back in 2000, who had launched monthly work parties in the park to remove Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, and other invasive species. Mary got proactive after a 2005-2006 study documented the terrible ecological shape of the park. She eventually took over as program coordinator for what would become known as the Weed Warriors.
She served as Weed Warriors coordinator from 2008 to 2015, working closely with volunteers and Portland Parks and Recreation. Weed Warriors, which got its current name in 2010, has grown from five crew leaders when Mary took over to 25 crew leaders today.
Under her leadership, Weed Warriors also played a key role in the Tabor to the River project of the city Bureau of Environmental Services. Weed Warrior work crews provided much of the labor to remove invasive species and plant native vegetation for the project, designed to decrease storm runoff into the Willamette River.
Weed Warriors now works with students at all levels, and sponsors an annual event with Nature Conservancy that draws more than 120 volunteers. It also works closely with Hands on Greater Portland and SOLVE Oregon to recruit volunteers.
Mary’s work as Weed Warriors coordinator led to the hiring of a paid, part-time Stewardship Coordinator to provide professional leadership for the volunteer work. The Stewardship Coordinator works with Portland’s parks and environmental services bureaus to plan and execute projects to replace invasive plants with native vegetation.
The city agreed to fund the coordinator position for seven years. When that term expired, Mary stepped up again. She spearheaded a Friends of Mt. Tabor Park fundraising drive to create a $100,000 endowment fund to pay the part-time Stewardship Coordinator. Mary, working with a steering committee and supported by a small grant from the Portland Parks Foundation, ultimately raised $109,000. The endowment fund is held by the Oregon Community Foundation and will pay for the Stewardship Coordinator position in perpetuity.
Mary also served as board chairwoman of the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park from 2009 to 2012, and co-chair from 2013 to 2015.
Her accomplishments for the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park earned her the city’s Spirit of Portland Award in 2012 and SOLVE’s Citizenship Award for a Community Organization in 2015.
The natural world of Mt. Tabor Park has no better friend than Mary Kinnick, this month’s Rock Star.