Cascade Volunteers, the nonprofit friends group of the Willamette National Forest, is excited to announce a new project along the McKenzie River.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2021, the McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project will bring volunteers to the McKenzie River Corridor, where they’ll spend a weekend volunteering and enjoying all the region has to offer, including outdoor recreation like hiking and mountain biking. This project, funded by Travel Oregon’s Destination Ready Program, combines tourism and stewardship by partnering volunteers with local nonprofits to engage in hands-on forest restoration aimed to help public lands and communities affected by the catastrophic Holiday Farm Fire, which burned nearly 175,000 acres along the McKenzie River in the summer and fall of 2020.
“We have seen an increase in forest use during the pandemic,” said District Ranger Darren Cross. “Exploring the forest and connecting with nature is important for community wellness and the recovery of the McKenzie River economy. The forest will always be resilient, and whether it is wildfire or increased visitation, the Forest Service continues to work with the community and our partners to steward the forest for everyone. The McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project is a great example of partnerships working to boost the post-fire economy and connect people with their national forest.”
The Holiday Farm Fire began on September 7, 2020 just west of McKenzie Bridge. Strong winds pushed the fire through the communities of Blue River, Finn Rock, Nimrod, Vida and Leaburg, burning a total of 173,439 acres in a mosaic pattern.
“The McKenzie Valley holds a special place in the hearts of its residents and visitors alike,” said Alyssa Brownlee of the Horse Creek Lodge. “The Holiday Farm Fire, while devastating, also brought forth an unbelievable amount of support from near and far. This project will be a wonderful opportunity to share and continue the long recovery process, while supporting our local businesses. We’re excited to be a part of this.”
“The Willamette Valley Visitors Association believes travel has the power to positively develop both the destination and those who visit,” said Dawnielle Tehama, executive director of the Willamette Valley Visitors Association. “In order for travel to have its greatest power, it must be conscious, equitable, forward thinking and accessible to all. Willamette Valley Visitors Association and its regenerative travel partners are committed to the future of travel. A future ripe with sustainable and regenerative travel opportunities by connecting travelers to guiding principles, inspiration and ways to protect our destinations. We are all stewards of this land, it is our responsibility to connect to the communities we touch.”
The all-new project is a collaborative effort. Partners include, First Nature Tours, Horse Creek Lodge, McKenzie General Store, Belknap Hot Springs, Eugene, Cascades & Coast, Willamette Valley Visitors Association, Friends of the Central Cascades Wilderness, Worthy Garden Club, and Disciples of Dirt.
Interested volunteers can book their three-day, two-night volunteer trip with First Nature Tours. If you’re not ready to travel but want to support stewardship efforts on our fire-impacted public lands, donations can be made directly to Cascade Volunteers.