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An Incredible Time at Trailkeepers of Oregon

June 16, 2018

By Paul Gerald, Board President, Trailkeepers of Oregon

I am humbled to be the new President of the TKO board of directors, especially at this time of growth and organization-building, which has been greater than anything we’ve even dreamed of since our formation in 2007. A bit about myself: I’ve been on the board since 2014. Since 2001, I have dedicated six editions of my guidebook, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, to the people who build and maintain trails. I am proud to be part of this amazing organization.

Six people wearing hard hats hold straps encircling a log to carry it across a trail against a backdrop of burned trees.

A TKO trail crew moves a log at Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia Gorge. (Photo by Megan Zabel Holmes)

Beginning in a newly created position last July, Executive Director Steve Kruger, our first paid staff member, has been doing an amazing job growing our organization, making connections in the community, building relationships with agencies, and finding new sources of funding for our mission “to protect and enhance the Oregon hiking experience through advocacy, stewardship, outreach, and education.” Two months after Steve began as executive director, the Eagle Creek Fire swept through a large part of the Columbia River Gorge, making the importance of our mission—and, frankly, our profile—higher than ever. Before the fire was even out, we had heard from thousands of people like you, saying you want to help rebuild the trails in the Gorge.

And that is what we are doing today. Already in 2018, we have run 60 crews on trails affected by the Eagle Creek Fire, and we will have dozens more this year. Among the places where we are working is the Angels Rest Trail, which we think will reopen sometime this year.

Sixty-plus people pose for a group photo in front of a rustic building.

Over sixty volunteers participated in TKO’s Tread School in May 2018. (Photo by Claudio Bernstein)

As inspiring and satisfying as it is to do this work and to see nature already recovering from the blaze, it is doubly so to see the dedication of our volunteers, funders, and other partners to help get the work done. You are literally rolling up your sleeves, getting your boots dirty, and digging deep in your pockets to help Trailkeepers of Oregon fulfill our mission in the Gorge and elsewhere.

But we aren’t just working in the Gorge, nor are our efforts limited to grub hoes and mattocks. Here are just a few of the things your support—financial and otherwise—is helping TKO accomplish now and in the future.

  • In 2017 we ran more than 90 crews that built 9,605 new feet of trail and maintained 40,638 feet of existing trails.
  • So far in 2018 we are on track to nearly double our events.
  • We are leading educational and trail-crew training outings to teach people the skills they need to work safely on trails and to move towards becoming crew leaders themselves.
  • In fact, to add to the mere threecrew leaders we had last year, we now have 25 people learning what it takes to be a leader of our volunteers!
  • We will be working with Oregon State Parks and other agencies to build and maintain a new section of the Oregon Coast Trail in the area around Neahkahnie Mountain. See the interview with Connie Soper in this newsletter for more about the Oregon Coast Trail—a great alternative to the closed Gorge trails.
  • This year we will once again host the Oregon Trails Summit, bringing together agencies and other stakeholders from all over the state to coordinate efforts to support trails and the people who use them.
  • We are also helping to launch the Oregon Trails Coalition, whose mission is to support and promote the maintenance, development, and stewardship of Oregon’s trails. While this move aligns perfectly with our focus for hiking trails, this group will include all types of outdoor recreation supporters on all types of trails.
  • In last year’s Willamette WeekGive! Guide, TKO raised over $22,000 from 250 donors.
  • We anticipate hiring a second staff member this summer.

Of course, none of this happens without your support. So thank you. Please tell your friends about this work you are supporting, and invite them to join us as well. Together, we are not only going to rebuild the trails in the Gorge, but we are also going to create a new and powerful voice for trails and the people who use them all over Oregon. The trails have given us all so much; thank you for working with us to give something back.

Paul Gerald: paul.gerald@trailkeepersoforegon.org

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