Eagle Creek fire, restoration volunteers recognized on National Public Lands Day

For National Public Lands Day, Sept. 22, organizations teamed up to thank Eagle Creek fire volunteers for their work to support recovery efforts in the Columbia River Gorge over the past year.

“The enthusiasm from volunteers this past year has been truly inspiring,” said Lynn Burditt, area manager for the Forest Service’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. “We are grateful to our partners for connecting the many people who expressed interest in helping after Eagle Creek fire with the opportunities that made a real difference on the ground.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. This year’s theme, “Resilience and Restoration,” resonates with the hundreds of volunteers who helped out in the Columbia River Gorge since last year’s fire.

To say thank you, Oregon Parks and Recreation hosted an event at Rooster Rock State Park, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Pacific Crest Trail Association, and REI Co-op.

“The shocking events of the Eagle Creek fire have led to an incredible outpouring of service and effort from the partners and public. Reflecting a year later gives us a great opportunity to say thank you to all hard work, patience, and perseverance of the community. We know that the public lands of the Columbia River Gorge will continue to be loved and cared for because of the unique partnerships of the area,” said MG Devereux, deputy director for Oregon State Parks.

Outdoor enthusiasts gathered at Rooster Rock State Park on S to engage in one of their favorite ways to celebrate public lands: Volunteering.

“Volunteering with Friends of the Columbia Gorge has helped me channel the negativity and hurt from the Eagle Creek fire into a positive meaningful goal to make the Gorge a better place. The volunteers I have met are all people who share the same love and care for the Gorge and its habitat,” said Sejal D’Souza, a volunteer who has been helping remove invasive species from public lands in the Gorge.

Since last year’s Eagle Creek fire, volunteers have helped with trail repair, invasive species removal, and an outreach program called “Trailhead Ambassadors,” which provides visitor information and tips on how to keep their visit to the Gorge safe and sustainable. Roughly half of the trail miles impacted by the fire have now reopened.

“It’s truly awe-inspiring what’s been accomplished through this massive mobilization of volunteer stewardship,” said Dana Hendricks, a representative for the Columbia Cascades Region of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Following work parties, volunteers will celebrate their accomplishments with a taco bar and festivities, sponsored by REI Co-op.

“National Public Lands Day is a time to celebrate our publics lands and our collective responsibility to steward the natural places that inspire us all — from local trails, to parks and waterways — places where we live, work and play,” said Mick Minard, REI Outdoor Programs and Experiences manager for Oregon.

REI Co-op is celebrating National Public Lands Day with over 75 events across the country to steward and raise awareness for public lands. From repairing local trails to beautifying parks to community celebrations, REI is inviting members of all ages and abilities to join in the effort. Events begin Sept. 22 and continue through the end of the month.

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