By Tom Kloster, President, Trailkeepers of Oregon In its 2017 session, the Oregon legislature passed a pair of bills that created a new “Office of Outdoor Recreation” and established the first Saturday in June as “Outdoor Recreation Day.”…
By Steve Kruger, Executive Director
While chopping up the dirt on a trail near Hood River with TKO volunteers not long ago, I was answering as many questions as I was asking as we got acquainted. Having recently left my job as an Oregon State Parks ranger to accept the role of Executive Director of Trailkeepers of Oregon, I get asked plenty of questions. My most common reply is, “They thought they should send a ranger. A jack of all trades, right?” One of my fellow crew members said, “Did you know there is a second part to that phrase? A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” It brought a smile to my face and reminded me of a line from a seminal figure in public lands’ history about the many roles of park rangers:
Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is “send a ranger.” If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull him out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved, it is “send a ranger.” If a Dude wants to know the why of Nature’s ways, if a Sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, his first thought is, “ask a ranger.”
—Stephen T. Mather, Director of the National Park Service, 1928, in Oh, Ranger!
I’ve blazed a trail or two in my career. In my ten years with the State Parks and Recreation Department, I’ve managed some complex parks and projects and worked with a variety of people to accomplish far more than I could have on my own. I learned quickly that strong relationships are paramount for any type of success in preserving and protecting these special places. Now more than ever, my two years served in the Columbia River Gorge parks is heavy on my mind. My heart is with Forest Service and firefighting personnel who continue to expend all their energy, saving gorge communities and iconic sites from the continued dangers of the Eagle Creek Fire. We are here to help when the time comes. The best respect I could offer to those who are serving now is to guide and support them through TKO’s endeavor to become a premier, statewide nonprofit for trails.
There is an accelerating momentum across Oregon for the support of outdoor recreation and trails, especially to address the need for a more effective system of stewards to bridge gaps between maintenance backlogs and the fine park rangers who are spread thin in tending to trails. The outdoor recreation and tourism industries are stepping up to the table, side-by-side with public agencies and with trails and conservation groups. Legislative efforts are coming to fruition, such as the passing of an Oregon Coast Trail initiative. Also, a new Office of Outdoor Recreation was recently established by the state legislature, which our Board President Tom Kloster tells about in this newsletter.
Meanwhile TKO is bustling like never before, being awarded capacity building grants, doubling our stewardship activities and number of volunteers from last year at this time, and taking a foundational role in collecting statewide advocates at an upcoming Oregon Trails Summit. Our strong volunteer leaders have taken the steps necessary to build our organization’s resources, effectiveness, and stability through a multi-level membership program and a micro-donation campaign on OregonHikers.org. Within two short hours of being highlighted in the newly launched TKO e-newsletter, we had our first $1,000 donor! Upon reaching out to thank her directly, she responded in a fashion true to the type of community we have fostered:
You are welcome. I am on the email list and have seen the volunteer trail maintenance opportunities. I always say to myself that I should do that . . . and never do. I’ve even passed the volunteer crews working, while out hiking, which makes me feel even guiltier for not volunteering. I also use the oregonhikers.org [http://oregonhikers.org/] site extensively. However, I rarely post trip reports. So again, I use the organization’s services, but never “give back.” So my donation was my feeble attempt to pay back just a small portion of all that I have taken from TKO. . . .
—Mary Ann Pastene
I’d like to make sure that everyone knows there are many ways to give back. Whether it be $1 or $1,000, volunteering at one of our many trail work parties, or posting your trip reports and supporting the hiking community on OregonHikers.org, Trailkeepers will bridge the gaps on these connections to nature. It is my pleasure to serve you and to support these efforts like we have never had the opportunity to do before!