By Cheryl Hill – TKO Trail Ambassador and author of Fire Lookouts of Oregon
You may know that you can volunteer with TKO to build and maintain trails, but did you know that you can also volunteer as a Trail Ambassador?
TKO’s mission is to protect and enhance the Oregon hikers experience through stewardship, advocacy, outreach and education – there is a reason why stewardship comes first. By being a growing presence through stewardship of Oregon’s hiking trails, we build trust and become a vital resource to respond to all sorts of trail challenges. Our best advocacy is achieved after we’ve earned that trust, helping see trail management concerns met and trail system improvement come to fruition.
The surge of community support and involvement after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017 is where many of the current TKO Crew Leaders got their start. We have used what we learned from those experiences of bring trails back from the ashes to build a cohort of skilled volunteers across the state. We have been working tirelessly for the last four years to build a training program for trail steward volunteers to be ready to tackle any trail issues that arise, including fire impacts.
We all learned too soon that the instances of wildfire across lands in Oregon are increasing and 2020 hit hard. TKO embraced our role as a recovery partner after the Eagle Creek Fire and offered our experience to trails closed due to the historic 2020 Labor Day Wildfires. We teamed up with Oregon Department of Forestry and a co-hosted 3 interns with Northwest Youth Corps, guiding their efforts in assessing post-fire trail conditions and activating community engagement in the Santiam State Forest.
In 2022 we will be back again, kicking things off with a special TKO Tread School – Fire Recovery Edition. We know from experience that the best way to teach someone a skill is to get a tool in their hands and let them experience the process for themselves. Trailkeepers University programming such as this sets out to empower volunteers to help with recovery in fire affected areas by having our Crew Leaders pass along the lessons learned over the years. This will happen by getting more tools in more volunteers hands on trails across the state. All of this takes resources, this is where our amazing donors come in. Your gift makes an impact and brings you into the legacy we are building together.
We are pleased to know that the credit earned in Eagle Creek fire recovery has allowed our volunteers to begin a journey of restoration across the Clackamas River Ranger District in Mt. Hood National Forest. Starting with small crews of 4-8 experienced volunteers and TKO staff, we are opening up the trail corridor and mitigating the initial risks in this severely fire-damaged area of the Forest. Stay tuned, as those crews get a handle on what needs doing – community members will be called upon to restore this place. And while we are at it, a chance to rebuild in a way like never before, looking to improve those trail systems in a chance for Oregons hikers to have a voice in their return!
Portland, Ore. – March 3, 2022 – This spring, Trailkeepers of Oregon, the US Forest Service, Oregon State Parks and the Mt. Hood – Columbia River Gorge Regional Tourism Alliance are kicking off another season of the Trail Ambassador Program to equip visitors with the information they need for a safe, informed, and positive experience when hiking and visiting the region. The Trail Ambassador 2022 season will kick-off on Earth Day weekend, April 23rd, and Trailkeepers of Oregon is currently seeking volunteers.
Volunteer Trail Ambassadors are placed at some of the busiest trailheads in the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood. Volunteers will have the opportunity to table at trailheads and hike the trails on weekends during peak season. Volunteers will engage with the public to answer hiking and destination related questions, promote responsible stewardship ethics, communicate about trail conditions and alternative hike information, as well as direct folks to resources such as OregonHikers.org, Ready, Set, GOrge, and land manager and partner websites.
Trail Ambassadors communicate key safety and trail condition information integral to both keeping folks safe and promoting stewardship of our most heavily visited recreation sites. Staying on official trails, packing out waste, being responsible with pets, and knowing about other nearby options if the destination is overcrowded, are important aspects of the program.
“Local volunteer Trail Ambassadors are one of the greatest assets we have in the region to help inform and inspire safe and positive hiking experiences on our trails. A warm welcome and helpful advice can make the difference in having a good vs. bad experience on a trail and that is what Trail Ambassadors can provide. And who is better at sharing a favorite post-hike lunch or brewery suggestion than a local?” said Lizzie Keenan, Regional Lead for the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Regional Tourism Alliance.
Program organizers are looking for friendly, professional, outgoing individuals who enjoy informing and helping others and possess knowledge of Gorge and Mt. Hood trails. Volunteers are required to take an online training before signing up to volunteer.
For Trail Ambassador Program details and to sign up to volunteer, go to trailkeepersoforegon.org/trailambassadors.
There will be an online information sessions to answer any questions about the program. The next sessions are on March 16 at 6:30pm and April 6th at 12pm. Please register for the info sessions here.
For additional press questions, please contact Natalie Ferraro with Trailkeepers of Oregon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since cutting their saw teeth after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017, TKO Volunteers have (unfortunately) gotten really good at using their skills to recover trails from wildfire. Mt Hood National Forest has engaged TKO to help in the rehabilitation of the Clackamas River Trail, a popular hiking destination within the Mt Hood National Forest. […]