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?
Waterfalls throughout our landscape are as iconic as the Douglas fir tree. We celebrate them with great fanfare as a quintessential outdoor highlight to be sought after, connected to and protected. When the Eagle Creek fire swept through the waterfall corridor of the Columbia River Gorge, it was a moment that swept our breath away and we all wondered when we’d be able to see those falling waters once again. In the meantime, the waterfall destinations elsewhere in the state saw an even greater visitation. Trails connecting to these scenic sites are in constant need of keepers to tend to their care.
Elowah Falls, at John B. Yeon State Recreation Corridor is part of a waterfall hunter’s punch card. Gorge Trail #400 and other connective trails were closed due to the fire. Elowah Falls is still closed, testament to the damage incurred and the fragility of the Columbia Gorge landscape. So much natural beauty, unique ecosystems and historical marvels are at play, we’ve steadily stacked thousands of rocks to build back this trail. 2020 will see this trail possibly open due in no small part to our TKO Rock Team of volunteers. Turning our sites to the central valley, Silver Falls State Park is the flagship of the Oregon State Parks system and a waterfall alley all on its own. We’ve just started in there and we are seeking the support to keep on keeping.
The Eagle Creek fire burned away the carpet of moss that acted as the glue holding in place endless hills of rocks that ultimate make up the landscape. At Elowah Falls, other Gorge Trail #400 segments and connective trails, scree zones were exposed and rock slides occurred. Meanwhile, an era of trail building from the 1930s was revealed. Out of necessity, a mighty force of trail builders honed skills in dry rock stacking. A number of trails are cleaned up, but the fragility of this place will likely see more rocks spill over our trails. Somebody needs to stack them up again, that’s where we can help.
TKO has been a nonprofit for just over 12 years. We are Portland-based, but that is now changing and we are growing our geographic reach. Oregon State Parks has been a gateway for our growth, taking our strong partnerships with parks in the Portland/Gorge region and letting that trust spread to other parks. With strong relationships to precede us, stewardship growth can only happen through recruiting and training more volunteer leaders. The only reason we are able to start in at Silver Falls is because local leaders stepped up to the challenge. TKO’s strong relationships with park staff confident in our work. TKO has established a leadership training series, next class is this week! Join us to do more for trails.
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 email@example.com
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. […]