A Week of Meet and Greets

This week was a week full of “meet and greets” of sorts. The Siuslaw National Forest extends over 630,000 acres that requires an extensive team to help manage each region. While I have spent time getting to know the staff and volunteers at Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet everyone down in the southern region of The Siuslaw.

After a morning safety meeting at the Reedsport office, I set off with other recreation staff members to a volunteer presentation meeting at the Horsfall Day Use OHV Staging area. There, I was able to meet each of the volunteers who care for a different recreation site: the Siltcoos Campground, Horsefall Campground, and OHV Staging Areas. Before each department presented their work, introductions were made from recreation staff of Cape Perpetua and the Reedsport office.

The developed Recreation Team presented first and reviewed the projects they have planned. They let the volunteers know what sort of work would be done in their sites and opportunities for those who wanted to get involved. Next, it was Cape Perpetua’s turn to present on their Junior Ranger program, as well as a new “Clean Campground” program that is designed to recognize the families at campsites who have done their part in keeping the sites clean. Each of the volunteers was initiated into the Junior Ranger program so they could help out and host the program for future Junior Rangers. The final group to present was National Forest Law Enforcement. They talked to hosts and volunteers about safety and the best way to handle situations that may come up during their time here with the Forest Service. Although I may not have a chance to work directly with everyone I’ve met so far, getting the opportunity to know them in their sites was a wonderful bonding experience.

Volunteer meeting

As the title of this blog suggests, it truly was the week to meet people. Each day that I worked out in the field, I met someone new. Tuesday was spent at the Dunes Day Use Area on a field trip with second graders. Here I met Joey, our Outdoor Ambassador for the Forest Service. He traveled from his station in Corvallis to help teach the students about animal tracks. He taught them the specifics of what to look for in the dunes, then sent them out on their own to identify what they could. With his experience in the education field, his presence taught me a bit about being an educator working with the national forests.

Darielle, our newest intern, also joined us at the dunes for a chance to run a program on her own for the first time. After observing Vicki, our Cape Perpetua Director, Darielle taught the students all about the sand that makes up the dunes: where it comes from, its composition, and how it forms. With our incredible team, we had a successful day of programs and a group of happy, educated young students.

Team of educators for the day

The last group of people I met was the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative. Their mission is to save the dunes, which are rapidly disappearing due to invasive species, by promoting restoration and preservation of this environment. They dedicate their time to educating visitors about the history of the dunes and their importance for recreation and habitat. The Collective runs a specific volunteer program focused on physically removing the invasive Scotch Broom that has taken over so much of the dunes area.

This week, a group of volunteers from the local middle schools came to remove the plants in hopes of preventing regrowth in that area. I had the opportunity to join them to gain personal experience with the removal of this invasive species. While I have learned about the dunes in passing, I hadn’t yet heard some of this extensive history. Thank you to the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative for sharing so much of their knowledge.

From seasonal employees to volunteers to full-time staff, this national forest has an incredible team working to ensure it has a bright future. Every member of this team loves the Siuslaw National Forest, whether it be the Visitor’s Center at Cape Perpetua or the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. They dedicate their time and energy each day in the field to support, guide, and promote for the forest they care so much about. Where would we be without the people who work so hard and do the work they do? Although I’m not finished meeting everyone who is a part of this incredible team, I still have an entire summer of opportunities here. I wonder who I will get to meet next? I guess we’ll find out next week!

Yselia Cortez
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