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Board Reflections: Pleschette Fontenet

By Pleschette Fontenet
Board Member, Friends of the Columbia Gorge

November 15, 2020

In 2015, I accepted a career opportunity in Portland, Oregon, without ever visiting the Pacific Northwest. I extensively researched the city and read several stories of other transplants to know what to expect. Excited to turn the page of my next chapter in life, I sold my home in Austin, Texas, and drove with a friend eager to complete his quest to visit all 50 states.

Our journey lasted 32 hours, and I was dozing as we drove along I-84 and entered the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. My friend exclaimed, “You must wake up for this!” As I woke up, I was mesmerized and thought to myself, “How did I miss this in my research?” We agreed that a mere photograph from the car could not convey the majesty of what we were witnessing.

Since then, the Columbia Gorge has become my heaven on earth. A couple of years after my move, I was invited to join Friends’ Philanthropy Committee and was met with warmth and kindness. I welcomed a later invitation to join our Board of Directors, and I’ve explored even more trails and worked with my fellow directors to safeguard the many geological wonders, preserved by earlier trailblazers and Gorge conservationists in decades past.

Over the past 40 years, Friends has faced twists and turns its founders never could have imagined. We’ve had many successes, some set-backs, and some areas where we’ve fallen short. But along the road, Friends has always pushed itself to look towards challenges on the horizon. And as you’ll see in our annual report, Friends’ work to preserve vital habitat, drive hard conversation on the growing threat of climate change, and to educate new generations of Gorge protectors continues.

When visitors from Texas question how I was able to adapt to such a new city so seamlessly, I relish the opportunity to play show and tell, driving them to iconic, easily accessible Gorge sites like Rowena Crest, Bridge of the Gods, Multnomah Falls, and the Vista House. Every visit to the Gorge yields the same enchanted reaction from friends and family, whether it is my 11-year-old niece or my 50-year old cousin.

I am especially grateful to serve as a member of a fierce team dedicated to protecting the Gorge with integrity, while driving inclusion to ensure everyone can enjoy this one-of-a-kind wonder, now and in the years ahead.