Steady Path: Trail Keepers of Oregon expands its mission to Silver Falls

May 2021 Posted in Outdoor Life

By Melissa Wagoner

Installation of gabions on Maple Ridge Trail. Arthur Mills

Installation of gabions on Maple Ridge Trail. Arthur Mills

There are thousands of hiking trails in Oregon, many of them almost a century old and most of them maintained by volunteers – such as those organized by Trail Keepers of Oregon (TKO).

“We do trail maintenance and repair for state parks and national parks,” volunteer and Silver Falls State Park Crew Leader Arthur Mills explained. “The people who started it were a bunch of hikers working on an abandoned trail on Mt. Hood.”

That was in 2007, and since then TKO has grown considerably to include hundreds of volunteers, trail ambassadors, interns, board members, an advisory council and even a few paid staff.

“It was a small organization until the Eagle Creek fire and then it really grew,” Mills said. “It’s amazing how many entities are in the Gorge.”

But TKO is not consigned solely to the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood, trail parties have also been held in parks along the Oregon Coast and in the wilds of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

“They’re trying to expand to other areas of the state and not be so Portland- centric,” Mills explained.

Which is why, in 2020 TKO began exploring opportunities at Silver Falls State Park.

“There’s an infinite amount of work,” Mills – who quickly became the weekday Crew Leader at Silver Falls due to his proximity (he lives 15 minutes from the park), his familiarity with the staff and the experience he’s gained in the past four years – said.

“John Hilbert, one of the rangers at Silver Falls, he was at Milo McIver State Park, so we got to know one another,” Mills said of the impetus for the partnership, which has TKO crews working on the new Centennial Trail, as well as completing overall maintenance of the outer Canyon Trail. “He knew the quality of work we do and was excited.”

That quality stems from the volunteers, many of whom, like Mills, become life- long members.

“It’s an experience,” Mills said of the trail parties. “You get to come out and appreciate being outside… And the people at the parks are always so appreciative.”

Volunteer opportunities throughout Oregon abound, both mid-week and
on weekends, and are listed on TKO’s website at www.trailkeepersoforegon.org.

“Our priorities are safety first, have some fun and get some work done,” Mills said

“We want people outside and enjoying it. It’s all volunteer, so you work at your own pace.”

Hard hats, gloves and tools are provided, along with first aid kits in case of an emergency. And while no special skills are required, volunteers under 18 must have a parent present or a signed consent form to join.

“They’re very supportive,” Mills said of the organization. “They’re always looking for more volunteers and trying to be more inclusive.”

Which is true of the Silver Falls faction of TKO as well.

“We’re just not that well-known here,” Mills pointed out. “But we’re hoping to get more local people because it’s in their own backyard.”

  • Trail Keepers of Oregon
  • Protecting and enhancing the Oregon hiking experience.
  • Join a trail party – helping to maintain the thousands of miles of trail in Oregon.
  • Become a trail ambassador – train in public engagement, then volunteer at popular trailheads.
  • Train as a trail scout – become an informed hiker.
  • Donate – further TKO’s mission by giving funds.
  • Visit www.trailkeepersoforegon.org

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