Gorge Caretaker: Matt English

Gorge Caretaker Role: Sheriff, Hood River County

During the first days of the Eagle Creek fire, Hood River County Search & Rescue was part of a major effort to rescue more than 150 hikers trapped on the Eagle Creek trail at the onset of the fire. 

"What is the first word or phrase I think of when I think about the Gorge? 'Fortunate.' It's how I feel about living and working in such an amazing place. Often times when I have traveled, I realize that perhaps I may take for granted, what an amazing place this is to live. I truly believe it is one of the most spectacular places on Earth. 

"Search and Rescue is a responsibility of the Sheriff but unlike other areas, we don’t have the resources that areas with the same volume of calls have. Annually, 99%-plus of our searches are for visitors (to Hood River County) but we don’t have any ability to fund our program outside of donations and a small amount of federal dollars that have been declining or non-existent in recent years.

"The influx of year round eco-tourists have a major impact on our services. We are committed to supporting visitors and our businesses that rely on them but need to find long-term funding to meet these demands. We have been working for about five years to find sustainable sources that will support the incredible work our staff and volunteers do every year. Although the 2017 fire drew attention to search and rescue, we live and breathe search and rescue every year.  

"Not only was the fire devastating on the visual landscape but the fear and panic it caused in our communities will take time to recover from. Additionally, the impact on our local businesses is very concerning. I am hopeful that our local tourist economy is as resilient as our residents. In the end, our Office felt like we were able to establish an even deeper connection with the residents we serve on a daily basis and become stronger as a community."

Caretakers of the Gorge is a collaboration between Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Swanson Studio, a Portland-based commercial photo studio.

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