by Steve Kruger – TKO Executive Director
Many of you may recall my end of year letter, sharing with you how my 3 year old son has grown up around TKO and the trails adventures we’ve been able to explore. Doing our best to stick close to home and balance two working parents, my son Van has been experiencing the simpler things – which to him are out of this world – digging up worms in the raised beds at our house or finding a random brick wall in the neighborhood to smack a tennis ball against. We hope you’re finding similar ways to do the right thing, stay home. Remember, the trails will welcome us back when we get to the other side of this!
My family is very fortunate, and I’m not sure I deserve this, but we are all grieving a great many things right now. While we all rewire our brains a bit, each of us has the anxieties of what happens next and what we will never get back to. For me this feeling of loss changed during a video call this week when a thoughtful colleague of mine said, “While we are practicing physical distancing, now more than ever we need social closeness.” While being apart physically is one-part necessary and all parts difficult, I realize I have never felt more connected with my family, friends and colleagues. When faced with such challenging uncertainty, our strength will come from how we stay strong together.
If you’re wondering how TKO is fairing during this trying time, we are holding up. Because of the support you gave us during our end of year giving season in 2019, as well as some very powerful gifts in early 2020, we are currently able to keep everyone on staff in our small but mighty team. We canceled 25 events between mid March and early April – nearly $40k+ in-kind value to trails postponed. Now canceling April and May, we will see an additional loss of $200k+ in-kind value that would’ve been put to improving trails. Making do, we are rallying our supporters and volunteers to be ready for when we return to a new normal – and we will get there. Partners, land managers and funders are all sharing that it is not if, but when!
I am very proud to be a part of this organization. The TKO staff and volunteer leadership have acted quickly to pivot our work so we can keep focusing on you, our most valuable asset. We’re working hard to make sure that TKO is able to keep you connected to the trails community. While we can’t get you out on the trail, we can sure help bring our community together by the many digital tools available to us:
Articles and posts on things happening or adventures you can explore from home while we are practicing Governor Brown’s Stay-at-Home order.
Facebook & Instagram Live sessions to learn about our work, our tools and the people that make it all happen.
Videos & tutorials that have an evergreen effect to highlight the places we steward, the communities we serve and topics to build your stewardship skills.
We know it’s important for TKO to support our community throughout this time and be ready to hit the ground running. As “the curve” flattens and our community emerges from this crisis, trails will play an important role in helping us heal and rebuild our collective strength. Once this is over, our trails are going to need a lot of love – that’s where TKO can step in. The economic impacts are sure to see our local, state and federal lands stripped of their already stretched capacity for the care of our Oregon trails. Both now and in the future — we’re here to help. Trailkeepers are gearing up for:
Building core competencies in stewardship – foundational trail skills, a crew leadership pipeline and technical trail expertise. Allowing a new era of safety, quality and standardization for how people practice trail stewardship on public lands.
Training our volunteer Trail Ambassadors and Crew Leaders – Adding webinars and training sessions now so that we are even more equipped to answer the call to care for our outdoor places.
Producing a significant project portfolio to invest in trails infrastructure: We predict significant federal stimulus funds will be applied to hiking trails. We’ve done the work to collect the information over the last many years, now we are producing the project and budget proposals necessary to put Oregonians back to work through maintenance and enhancements projects.
There’s no way around it: this pandemic is impacting our organization. As our stewardship activities are temporarily put on hold, a significant portion of TKO’s donations, contracts and grant revenue have been left hanging in uncertainty. If you are in a position in donate, know that your support will be immediately put to good use to help us respond to these challenges and ensure a quick return to building and maintaining our trails as soon as possible.
Keep close, while we are all apart,
TKO Executive Director