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President’s Report: TKO Plans for Statewide Voice and Impact

March 18, 2019

By Paul Gerald, Board President, Trailkeepers of Oregon

I have been kicking around Trailkeepers of Oregon for five years now, and what has happened in that time is simply amazing.

When I joined the Board of Directors, we had an annual budget of about $1,200, five people on the Board, no staff, and one crew leader. Fast forward to 2018, when TKO hosted 259 work parties with 2,491 volunteers working on 140,109 feet of trail; that’s more than a marathon’s distance of trails! We now have more than a dozen crew leaders training even more “orange hats” to join them. Meanwhile, we finished 2018 with 11 people on our Board, two staff members, and an annual budget north of $200,000.

A group of people standing under a large cedar tree

A smiling group of TKO Board members and retreat attendees under the big cedar at Portland Audubon Society. (Photo by Tom Kloster)

The momentum and growth at TKO are astonishing, and they confirm a few things we have always believed: that there is a tremendous hunger for a statewide trail organization in Oregon, that our trails need work and support, and that an army of volunteers and other supporters have been waiting to strap on their work boots, write a check, or just show up for a meeting on behalf of trails and trail users.

The Eagle Creek Fire drew a lot of attention and resources our way. Having Executive Director Steve Kruger on board when that happened has probably meant more to TKO than any other single factor. When the hiking community came calling, Steve and TKO answered in a big way.

Besides the growth, one of the biggest shifts has been going from a small group of Board members running the organization to a big group of active Board members serving on four committees and setting big-picture goals and vision, which are then carried out by our incredible staff and volunteers.

That is why we all gathered at the Audubon Society of Portland in January for our annual Board retreat. The Society was nice enough to loan us their classroom for the day so we could take stock of where TKO is and plan for the future. We worked in large and small groups with a facilitator, enjoyed plenty of back-and-forth, got to know new Board members, and laid out tasks for the weeks and months ahead—all this surrounded by the wonderful scenery of the sanctuary and with feathered friends both inside and out lending their support.

A group of people sitting and standing around a long table look at a wall of colorful papers with writing on them.

Retreat attendees ponder a wall of ideas. (Photo by Tom Kloster)

The TKO Board is now engaged in a rigorous and thoughtful strategic planning process, attempting to answer important questions like what are our values, what is our vision for the organization and Oregon’s trails, what is our mission, and how best do we travel down the path to success over the next several years?

The planning process is ongoing, but I want to share with you some of what came from our retreat and where we, as a Board, see TKO going over the next several years.

The mission of Trailkeepers of Oregon, as laid out years ago, is “to protect and enhance the Oregon hiking experience through advocacy, stewardship, outreach and education.” That will not change, nor will the values and principles we embrace: stewardship, community, advocacy, equity, and a reverence for the natural world. What is changing is the scope of our impact and, with that, the needs of the organization, both internal and external. It’s a challenging process to plan for this, but one for which we have an amazing team in place.

We see TKO in the future as a large, growing, sustainable, truly statewide organization providing a voice and support for Oregon’s trails and the people who use them. We will be working to bring more people into contact with more trails and the places they lead us to. We will nourish and marshall an army of volunteers, donors, agency partners, and Trailkeepers of all sorts for this incredibly valuable effort.

I thank each of you for all you do, whether it’s on the trail, from the wallet, or in some other way that you serve as a Trailkeeper. I also want to publicly thank our Board of Directors for all they do: Cheryl Hill, Schuyler Warren, Maegan Jossy, Tom Kloster, Elaine Keavney, John Sparks, Ben Hedstrom, Jaime English, Curtis Smith, Megan Zabel Holmes, and Terry Donahe.

We’ll see you all on the trail!

Paul Gerald: paul.gerald@trailkeepersoforegon.org


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