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Volunteer Highlight: OET

February 25, 2014

OPRD volunteers are often responsible for adding extra flavor to a visitor’s experience. We’ve got natural beauty in vast quantities, hiking, biking and camping opportunities for all, but leave it to a dedicated group of volunteers to offer the next level up to our visitors. At Milo McIver State Park, for instance, our equine loving partners at Oregon Equestrian Trails saw an opportunity to take horseback exploration to a new level. Volunteers from the organization rallied together to build training stations for patrons to utilize during their visit to the park. These stations, “a sort of obstacle course that teaches horses and riders how to safely negotiate conditions they might find on a trail,” will provide riders a convenient venue for brushing up on their handling before galloping down the rugged forest trails. Projects like this, carried out in partnership with thoughtful, skilled and dedicated Oregon State Parks volunteers, complete the unique experience we seek to offer everyone who ventures out to the parks. For photos of the new structures, be sure to check out the Milo McIver blog.

The stations at Milo McIver are a first for State Parks, but hopefully not the last. With volunteers like our friends at OET on hand, we’re sure that will not be the case.


Get in the know! It’s time for the 2014 New Host Orientation!

February 12, 2014

The snow is melting (at least west of the Cascades) and we can already smell Spring in the air here at Parks, which means our new hosts are arriving and seeking out park assignments for the upcoming seasons. It also means we are getting geared up for the 2014 New Host Orientation! Whether you have already gotten your feet wet working at the parks this year or you are a brand new host applicant still seeking your first assignment, we invite you to join us for the opportunity to become more acquainted with Oregon State Parks, the Volunteer Host program and your fellow park hosts.

This 3-day session takes place at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, April 22nd-24th.

At the orientation, new hosts can expect an overview of the Oregon State Parks system and how hosts help foster Oregon parks’ internationally acclaimed reputation. Our sessions will review the history and success of the Park Host program, discuss mutual expectations and guidelines, and explain a typical day in the life of a host. Participants can expect a range of topics from mediation training to safety tips, presented by specialists from all corners of OPRD. In addition to our sessions, we invite the various parks to participate in a Host Opportunities Fair, where new hosts will have the chance to meet park staff from the field.

Included in your registration is a ticket to OPRD’s Outstanding Hosts of the Year Awards luncheon, which will be followed by a panel discussion composed of our award nominees, winners and their managers. This is a fantastic opportunity for new hosts to ask specific questions of the experts, our most experienced hosts. Registered hosts also have the option of parking their RV on site for the extent of the orientation, though no hook-ups will be provided. Parking will be available from 3:00 pm on April 21st, with festivities kicking off at 5:30 pm. We’ll begin with some fun icebreakers and our traditional potluck dinner. Bring your favorite dish and spark up a conversation with your neighbor about whoever made that incredible apple pie! The night will conclude with an interpretive presentation by one of our favorite park rangers.

We are excited to have you on board and want to help you succeed! So get in touch today to sign up for the 2014 New Host Orientation. Please contact Jill Nishball, Mountain Region Visitor Experiences Coordinator, at or leave her a message at 541-388-6073.

*You MUST already be a host applicant actively seeking assignments in order to attend. Space is limited.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

January 14, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words ring in all of our ears this time of year. Do-gooders across the country will swarm their communities over the next week, and we are excited to see the positive impact on Oregon’s beloved outdoors. This King Day of Service (Monday, January 20th), we invite you to extend your love of Oregon’s special places by lending a hand at one of your favorite outdoor spots. Seek an opportunity in your community at, bundle up your family, and step outside for a day of keeping our green spaces green and beaches clean. Better yet! Apply to volunteer for Oregon State Parks and we’ll help you identify service opportunities at the parks that offer you the meaningful experience you are seeking.


Outstanding Host Awards Nominations!

December 27, 2013

The New Years holiday is a perfect time to reflect on the progress we made, the projects we completed, and the relationships we developed over the last year. At Oregon State Parks, we reflect knowing that all of the above and more is only possible with the help of our dedicated volunteers. Now turn that reflection into recognition! This New Year, we offer you the opportunity to commend the volunteers you know for their contribution to our special places by nominating them for the 2014 Outstanding Host Awards.

Now through January 30th, we are accepting nominations for the Outstanding Hosts you have come to know! If you are an Oregon State Parks employee or volunteer working in any capacity for OPRD, YOU can nominate a park host or host couple for their outstanding efforts over the past year.

Judges rely solely on the information provided in your nomination packet, and will only consider completed nominations. So we encourage you to elaborate and be creative with your message. Consult other parks or volunteers about their experience with your nominee. Send photos. Sing a song. Be thorough! We want to know why this particular host is the MOST outstanding host you’ve worked with this year. The more detail, the more likely your nominee will stand out.

Want a nomination packet sent to you?

OPRD park employees – Please contact your region’s Visitor Experience Coordinator.

Everyone else – Please contact the Visitor Experience Lead, Vera Vollbrecht, at or (503) 986-0749.

We all know they have been working alongside us all along, those outstanding hosts… Let’s give them the recognition they have earned. Please help us by distributing this call far and wide, and remember, nominations are due January 30th!

Happy reflecting! …and Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving After Dinner Speech

November 26, 2013


This time of year is all about taking note of everything, big or small, that make a positive difference in our daily lives. (Of course, it’s also all about feasting on sweet and savory treats, ogling at the pretty lights in your neighborhood, and playing a heated game of Scrabble with your family.). What truly glows in each of us during the Thanksgiving Holiday is a sense of gratitude for what we have, and in many cases, what we have is the result of what others have given.

This Thanksgiving, we at Oregon State Parks are grateful for the service our volunteers have given us. These individuals are the face of our conservation efforts, the brains informing our interpretive programs, the keepers of our trails, and the reason our visitors have a tidy campsite to inhabit and a cozy fire to sit by.

So, we raise our glasses to all the Oregon State Parks volunteers – past and present – that have brought their skills, dedication, smiles, and park love to work with them every day. We could not operate such a robust network of special places without you!


Cottowood Can-you dig it?

August 1, 2013
John Day River flowing through Cottonwood Canyon State Park

John Day River flowing through Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Do you ever dream of being part of something special? Maybe, the opening of a new state park? To build a trail for future generations? Help deliver and develop interpretive programs? Plant trees that will restore the John Day River and one day provide shade for visitors? Or just help visitors enjoy 8,000 acres of terrain and sixteen miles along the banks of the John Day River in eastern Oregon?

Here is your chance. Cottonwood Canyon State Park is opening September 24th and we are looking for one maintenance and one day use/campground host willing to commit at least one month starting in October and November 2013 and then between March and November 2014. We also have room for individuals interested in interpretation, trail building, native plant restoration and (maybe) special construction projects. This new park is full of unique opportunities for involvement… but it might not be for everyone.

There is “remote” and then there is “Cottonwood remote”. There is no cell phone reception at the park and the closest town with full services is 40 minutes away. The park is still being developed and there are only young trees in the host site. We are in the desert and summers are very hot – temperatures have already hit a high of 112 this year and spring/fall can be cold. What we CAN offer is electricity to power on-site laundry, the AC and the heat!

With the remoteness of Cottonwood comes a special place in nature, one that Oregon State Parks is very excited about sharing with you. Even if you’re not interested in hosting, or just wondering what you are getting yourself into, come on out to Cottonwood Canyon State Park for a visit.

Please call the Park Ranger David Spangler for more information at 541-706-1633, or spend a few minutes reading about Cottonwood on the park blog.

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.”

July 9, 2013

Mr. Roger’s famous words illuminate the impact – big or small – that the do-gooders, the Samaritans, the bleeding hearts, the volunteers have on our world. We all know this world is not always a bowl of ice-cream with a cherry on top. We all know of tight budgets, unforeseen disasters, and shifts in our way of life that present challenges to our communities regularly. We all know that we confront and eventually overcome these challenges… but how? Volunteers, that’s how! You will always find people helping, committing their time and energy – for free – to lending a hand for the sake of the well being of their community.

At Oregon State Parks our volunteers lend their time, their skills, and their hands every day. Volunteers are responsible for anything from greeting and providing a meaningful experience for our park visitors, to beautifying our parks, to keeping our staff organized. Imagine our parks system without them…visitors tromping aimlessly through wild jungle that used to be trails, incredible heritage decomposing with time, park rangers running in circles until they collapse in a dizzy haze. In fact, even our strategic direction would be muddled without the help of the Commission (all volunteers!). Our reputation for offering world-class state park experiences is due, in large part, to every Oregon State Parks volunteer and we are so grateful for your support!

The next time you visit one of our special places, I invite you to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping…”

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