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?
Cascade Head is a thrilling place – hiking out to the headlands, you feel as though you are tipping off the edge of the world. Meanwhile back in the forested section of Cascade Head, you can soak in the shades of green from the surrounding mosses and lichens. Thanks to our funding partner, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, we have taken on stewardship priorities up and down the Oregon Coast. We connected with the folks from the Siuslaw National Forest at the Hebo District to take on a challenging role in bringing a lost section of the Oregon Coast Trail back to life. As that section of trail leads to The Nature Conservancy’s property, out on the Headlands we also tackled rethinking the design and maintenance of that trail network.
The best way we know to grow our stewardship and advocacy across the state is through strong relationships with partners and land managers. We let our reputation propel us towards new ventures both near and far. Smith Rock State Park truly is a wonder. While that word has taken on new meaning through a tourism spotlight in recent years, this gem in our state parks system is packed with visitors now more than ever. We’ve dabbled in trail improvements over the years here. Through our strong partnerships with field staff from Oregon State Parks, we are now concentrating our efforts in 2020 to help lift up the park’s trail infrastructure through newly designed field training opportunities for both agency staff and local volunteers.
A 2008 winter storm slammed into Oregon’s coast and caused an exorbitant amount of windfall, flooding and slides. Cascade Head wasn’t spared and hundreds of fallen trees caused extensive trail damage. At that time the damage was too much to reclaim, and this section of the Oregon Coast Trail was closed indefinitely. Now, thanks to a concerted effort and partnership with Forest Service staff, TKO has worked on bringing this trail back to life. The work has been challenging, but this trail is worth reclaiming and we’ll be there with our volunteers and our growing family of coastal partners to help make it happen.
There is a strong need in the trails community to have a wider offering of training experiences that can build up trail stewardship skills not just within the volunteers community but the professional community as well. With the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Trail Skills College and curriculum as our guide, TKO hopes to build upon that model to provide this type of training experience throughout Oregon. Recognizing the same needs, Oregon State Parks will be hosting a rock structure training in the spring of 2020 for their park rangers and have invited TKO volunteer leaders to attend. We hope that by providing support in developing this training, we’ll be able to expand this class into other places in Oregon that need it too.
Northwest Youth Corps is amazing and we are thankful supporters of the work and service they provide. They offer experiences in conservation and recreation management to youth and young adults that set a foundation for careers in the outdoors. There is still a large leap for those participants to get jobs in this field and TKO has found that by teaming up with NYC through individual internship positions, we can create one more stepping stone toward jobs . Each week, our NYC interns spend 1-2 days with Forest Service trail crews and then host TKO trail parties over the weekend. The model has proven successful and we have been excited to witness our NYC interns go on to new job opportunities as a direct result of their experience with TKO, NYC and the Oregon trails they’ve improved during their service.
And just as our partnerships have brought us to Smith Rock and Cascade Head, The Nature Conservancy has asked to have our expertise in trail design and initiating development at this property near Post, OR – a remarkable array of central Oregon landscapes, featuring John Day and Clarno “painted hills” formations. TKO will be heading up volunteer vacations in June 2020 at Juniper Hills. Whether it be ocean views on the Headlands or desert vistas on 10,000 acres between the Ochocos and Maury mountain ranges, TKO is getting after trails in Oregon.
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. […]