Volunteer Spotlight: Pat Owen

Meet a volunteer who tends two very different gardens at Como Park.

How did you get started volunteering?

I tend to two very different gardens. I started tending one at Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom about four years ago. All I need to do there is to walk through once a week to keep on top of the invasive species and pick up litter.

Then about a year and a half ago, I got the chance to take on the Historic Streetcar Station area. This is a large area with planted gardens, decorative grasses and some woodland. I live near that spot and was just itching to help with it! But it is a lot. District 10 has been great in putting out the call for additional volunteers when there are big projects like mulching.

What has made you particularly proud?

The slopes along the historic bridge next to the Streetcar station were overgrown with weeds and thistles. Last summer, I dug them up and planted grasses. Tony Singerhouse at Natural Resources got me Prairie Dropseed and Karl Foerster grass starts. Seven volunteers helped mulch and create dams out of tree branches to keep the mulch from sliding down the hill. There’s no water source, so I dragged gallon jugs from home. I can’t wait for spring to see how they survived.

Slowly the gardens are getting in back control. I debate how much to let the milkweed take over since it’s so important for butterflies. But it’s also important for the landscaped beds to look good. So I try to maintain a balance.

Tell us about the rewards and challenges of volunteering.

I feel really privileged to be a parks volunteer. Como Park is such a gem. As I learn more about its history, I love it even more. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to be outdoors. I could just go sit there and read a book for a couple of hours, but I don’t. Having to weed keeps me out there enjoying the surroundings.

I don’t see too many people since my areas are in the corner. But if visitors find me, they usually look for directions!

More folks are having events around the Streetcar Station, so I really want it to look nice. It’s my secret goal to mimic the picturesque landscaping of the original design. I enjoy creating beauty that people can enjoy.

Most of all, I love anticipating what surprises await me every time I go. Seeing the first Jack in the Pulpit of the season in the Como Woodland Garden is just magical.

Did you grow up gardening?

My mom grew vegetables and kept a basic flower garden. My dad had two rose bushes. I “helped them out” when I was little.
Our house was up against a woodsy marshland. I spent most of my childhood in that environment. It taught me to be comfortable in nature and to pay attention. I remember when I was little, I left my parents a note that said, “I am mad. I have run away. I’m in the swamp.” It was my place of solace.

Tell us about your other favorite Saint Paul parks.

I spend so much time at Como, but Rice Park is magical – especially with the winter lights as you look out from the Ordway.

Inspired? Volunteer in Saint Paul parks! From Wildlife Monitors to Park and Garden Stewards, there are ways to make a difference that connect you to nature. Learn more!