Over Earth Day weekend, Friends had 24 volunteers across 7 trailheads (Latourell, Angel's Rest, Multnomah Falls, Bridge of the Gods, Dog Mountain, Cape Horn and Trillium Lake), interacting with a combined total of 727 visitors. This friendly welcome committee greets hikers to equip them with tips for a safe, informed, and positive hiking experience. This is the second season for the Trailhead Ambassador program -- a collaborative effort between Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Regional Tourism Alliance, the U.S. Forest Service, and Oregon State Parks.
"The enthusiasm and love that these volunteers have for public lands is such a gift. Their passion and depth of knowledge is the most powerful tool we have to educate visitors to the Gorge and Mt. Hood on how to recreate safely and responsibly," said Trailhead Ambassador Coordinator Natalie Ferraro.
Last year’s inaugural year for the Trailhead Ambassador program was highly successful. Over the course of four and a half months, 94 volunteers donated 1,848 hours to engage with over 23,700 visitors at some of the busiest trails in the region.
“Trailhead Ambassadors share their love for public lands by connecting visitors with this special place. The Forest Service is thrilled to be a partner in this shared stewardship program,” said Lynn Burditt, the Forest Service’s Area Manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Jami Starr, a Park Ranger for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) noted, "Last year, the Trailhead Ambassador program assisted OPRD in enhancing visitor experience by providing valuable information to visitors about trail conditions and sharing Leave No Tracepractices. Through their efforts, we saw an increase in visitor safety and a decrease in impact on our trail systems. We're grateful to last year's Ambassadors and look forward to the working with this year's volunteers.”
This month, the Trailhead Ambassador program was awarded the Oregon Tourism Stewardship Award presented at the 2019 Oregon Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Eugene. This award recognizes outstanding contributions of a tourism-related activity specifically focused on Oregon’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation, as demonstrated by a strong commitment to decreasing the environmental impact of the travel and tourism industry.
Want to be a part of this growing volunteer program this spring and summer? We are looking for friendly, professional, outgoing individuals who enjoy informing and helping others and possess knowledge of Gorge and Mt. Hood trails. Volunteers are required to attend one four-hour volunteer training (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with the next one on Saturday, May 11 in Sandy, Oregon.
For Trailhead Ambassador program details and how to sign up to volunteer, visit gorgefriends.org/ambassador.
Photos: Trailhead Ambassadors and hikers at Cape Horn trailhead, May 2018 (Brandon Davis); Staff from Friends and Travel Oregon accepting the 2019 award (c/o Travel Oregon)
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Trailhead Ambassadors greet hikers at the busy Dog Mountain trailhead (photo: Friends' archives)