Editor’s note: The Oregon Health Authority strongly recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings in public indoor spaces. It’s also wildfire season — plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
Often our biggest sense of well-being comes from doing good for others. That’s especially easy to do in Oregon, where you can translate your passion for the forest, the rivers, the shoreline or the mountains into an hour, an afternoon or a weekend of giving back to your public lands. In fact, there’s a buzzword for it — “regenerative travel” — which simply means leaving a place better than you found it while you’re off adventuring. No matter your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors, here are several opportunities across the state that bring plenty of warm and fuzzy rewards and leave Oregon’s communities better at the same time.
Book an All-Inclusive Restoration Weekend With River Rewards
The workload is for moderate to advanced skill level volunteers only, but the payoff — hot springs, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and lounging at riverside cottages — is a sweet reward. The McKenzie Regenerative Travel project is a series of all-inclusive volun-tourism experiences that kicked off in spring 2021 to address the wildfire damage of the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire. While some McKenzie River area communities were untouched, others were devastated. Staff at the Willamette National Forest are stretched thin, and several recreation sites are in need of maintenance so visitors can return for the world-class rafting, hiking, biking, fishing and boating opportunities the region relies on. Visitors may sign up for two more opportunities in 2021 to trade in sweat equity for a chance to enjoy the community’s food, drink and lodging hospitality. Sign up for the Wilderness Stewardship weekend (Aug. 27-29, 2021), in partnership with Friends of the Central Cascades Wilderness, or the Mountain Bike Trail Work weekend (Sept. 24-26, 2021), in partnership with local mountain bike club Disciples of Dirt.
Combine Trail Work With a Camping Adventure
Hundreds of bikepackers each year cycle a section of the Oregon Timber Trail, the epic 669-mile backcountry trail stretching from Oregon’s southern border to its northern border and divided into four distinct tiers: Fremont, Willamette, Deschutes and Hood. Parts of the trail were heavily impacted by the 2020 wildfires, and the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance has been hosting work parties throughout 2021 to tackle much-needed restoration work. Sign up to help out at Old Cascade Crest in Idanha (Aug. 7-8, 2021), where volunteers will partner with Alpine Running, the Salem Area Trail Alliance and the Willamette National Forest for trail work — no experience needed. Volunteers will camp overnight, with free coffee and beer provided. There’s no cost to attend but registration is required. Look for more opportunities on the Oregon Timber Trail’s event calendar.
Be a Hiking Scout or a Trail Ambassador
If you’ve ever spotted a downed tree, a mud bog or overgrown brush on a hiking trail and wished you could let someone know to fix it, that’s exactly what you’d be doing as a volunteer scout for Trailkeepers of Oregon. Interested volunteers can take a quick online Scout School tutorial about what hazards to look out for and how to report them. Then Trailkeepers will work with their crews of volunteers to get those neglected areas back into shape. If you’re outgoing and have knowledge of trails on the North Coast or Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge area, you may be a perfect fit for the Trailkeepers of Oregon Trail Ambassador program. These volunteers engage with visitors directly about safety, ethical use of public lands and Take Care Out There practices, as well as sharing opportunities to engage with local communities. Sign up now for the online training course.
Keep the Coast Beautiful
Ever find yourself picking up litter on the otherwise pristine shoreline of the Oregon Coast? You can sign up to be part of an organized cleanup through local organizations like Surfrider Foundation and SOLVE, which strive to keep plastic debris out of the ocean for the health of local wildlife and the ecosystem. If you’re interested in teaching others how to care for the coastal environment, consider becoming a Tidepool Ambassador at Cape Falcon or Cape Perpetua. You can also be a volunteer interpreter with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, educating visitors about the amazing marine and bird life at Cannon Beach’s most iconic destination — no experience necessary.
Are you a budding citizen scientist? Consider joining CoastWatch, a citizen monitoring program through Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition that engages Oregonians in stewardship over their shoreline. The organization holds free events like the marine debris survey training at Fort Stevens State Park (Aug. 18, 2021) to learn how to collect data that will help evaluate the impacts of marine debris along Oregon’s coastline.