By Steve Kruger, Executive Director, Trailkeepers of Oregon On September 19, 2017, TKO volunteers had every intention to make their yearly return to Angel’s Rest. The site of our first official trail work party in 2008, this place…
By Paul Gerald, Board President, Trailkeepers of Oregon
As any trail crew can tell you, when you have a job to do, you need a plan. Without a plan, you can lose time, miss opportunities, create a mess, waste energy and maybe get somebody hurt. So before you work, you plan. On the Trailkeepers of Oregon Board of Directors, we had a plan, too. And then everything changed—for the better. So over the last year, we’ve been making an expansive new plan, and I want to share the core of that plan with you now.
For years, TKO was a small but scrappy organization run by the board members; we were thrilled to do 20 crew parties in a year. Then, in 2017, we hired Steve Kruger, our first Executive Director. Shortly after that, the Eagle Creek Fire took our visibility in the community to heights we had never imagined. Money and volunteers poured in, the media came calling, potential partners came from all directions, and Steve quickly became a full-time employee, joined since by two more staff, Natalie Ferraro and Susan Schen.
It has been amazing—and it has blown our previous plan out of the water. So last January our board went on a daylong retreat at the Portland Audubon Society to start work on a new 10-year vision and plan for the organization. Our mission remains the same: to protect and enhance the Oregon hiking experience through advocacy, trail stewardship, outreach, and education. The board also spent some time doing “visioning” exercises, imagining a world in which TKO’s work is being done to the best of our abilities. We came up with this vision of our successful future:
- Oregon’s trails are a place where people can go to connect with nature and one another. They are accessible and welcoming to all communities.
- The trails and the natural lands that they explore are well cared for by inspired TKO stewards and dedicated public resources.
We also thought long and hard about our values, the things that drive our work from the inside. It’s one thing to ask what we want to do, but why do we want to do it, how do we want to do it, and who do we want to be while we’re doing it? Here are TKO’s values:
- Quality: We build, restore, and maintain trails to the highest standards to leave a lasting legacy.
- Inclusion: We create partnerships with diverse communities and work together to make trails and nature welcoming and accessible.
- Leadership: We give voice to Oregon’s hiking community, building bridges between the public and decision-makers to ensure a thriving trail system in Oregon, accessible to all communities.
- Appreciation: We connect people with nature, inspiring a responsibility to maintain access to Oregon’s natural places.
- Collaboration: We develop collaborative relationships and trusting partnerships with land managers, volunteers, and trail supporters to make significant impact with limited resources.
With our mission and values set, our four committees—Stewardship, Communications, Advocacy, and Executive—went to work laying out the impacts that each wants to have. All of this is covered in a document we will release later this year, and each committee is already well into the detailed planning of specific tasks to make these impacts real. Stewardship will work to connect more people to trail work, develop more leaders, build a culture of fun and safety, and expand our partnerships statewide. Advocacy will develop positions, connect with public officials, and champion trail campaigns. Communications will engage with current and future supporters, give voice to diverse communities, and establish TKO as a statewide leader. Executive will lead a massive effort on diversity, equity, and inclusion while also developing internal structures and systems such as the board itself, staff, fundraising efforts, and facilities.
It is a ton of work, and we have an amazing group of people rolling up their sleeves all over the organization, from board meetings to trail work parties. We are all part of the same effort, whether we are clearing brush or attending yet another planning meeting. What connects us all is a love for Oregon’s trails, the natural places they take us to, and the other people we can connect with there. You are part of this effort, as well. I thank you for that. We have an excellent plan in place, an inspiring vision to work towards, and a common set of values and goals. So let’s get to work!
Paul Gerald: firstname.lastname@example.org