Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Day in the Life of Tualatin River Refuge….making yesterday’s vision today’s reality.

Kim gives a tour of the refuge to two of the many visitors who stop by
each day.
Credit: Tualatin River NWR

An entry from guest blogger Kim Strassburg, Visitor Services Manager at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

The dream of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge becoming an urban refuge has been etched in people’s minds for over 20 years. Sometimes I forget to stop and remember where we started and the hopes we had.  But as I reflect on what I have seen and experienced the last two days, I know the refuge has arrived.

Let me share the vision of what was happening – ALL simultaneously in one morning - as I was running around with Gardiner, our Education Coordinator, taking photos of groups from our community connecting with nature on our refuge: 

Art Camper photography.
Credit: Tualatin River NWR
  • A group of 8-10 year old “Art Campers” working on nature photography projects in the Environmental Education Shelter.
  • An entry-level Portland Community College conservation biology class exploring the refuge trails. They later returned to the Wildlife Center for an hour-long Q&A with staff to ask about wildlife management, and how to prepare for careers in conservation.
Recycled Art Day
Credit: Tualatin River
  • A group of elders from Vintage Place assisted living home watching a nature video in the Riparian Room. Afterwards, they fearlessly wheeled themselves within the group of college students and joined the conversation.
  • Three separate Kindercare pre-school groups doing crafts in the Discovery Classroom and exploring the trails.
  • A dozen volunteers at an “Extended Learning” session, led by a guest speaker, who taught about Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen science program called eBird.
  • Volunteers greeting families in the Wildlife Center while also helping parents of young children choose some good books from Nature’s Overlook store.
  • Volunteers brainstorming about new "photo flipbook" that would highlight the seasons of the refuge and what plants, animals and water levels that visitors would expect to see
  • A few volunteers weeding the bioswale, followed by a group from another assisted living care center enjoying the sun and the view at the bioswale overlook.
  • A group of 10 teens from a North Portland Youth Employment Institute program called Urban Rangers exploring the trails with a Volunteer Naturalist.
  • The refuge Biological Technician planning an invasive species awareness exhibit for our trailheads. 
Sunny day for seniors.
Credit: Tualatin River NWR
  • A small committee from a nearby 55+ community visiting the refuge to learn about native and water-wise gardening in order to re-landscape their complex
  • Friends education staff scheduling teacher workshops with our partners
  • A stack of 200 handmade invitations for our upcoming volunteer appreciation party. 
  • And education staff sharing lunch and planning the next adventures.

Tomorrow, we are off to the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts of Oregon celebration in Albany where 6,000 girl scouts and families are expected to attend.

Volunteers and visitors.
Credit: Tualatin River NWR
But for now, I am off to a Urban Refuge Initiative vision team conference call.  We will be discussing creating standards of excellence in urban refuges.......I am on a development/writing team for that......it's heady stuff.

Then it’s back to my office to do payroll, complete lengthy reports, balance credit cards, write conservation planning material, call the fire monitoring company, submit water quality samples to a lab, file safety plan paperwork, and clean my office..........not nearly as fun, though I am happy to do the "backstage work" to support the good stuff.  
WOW! I just cannot imagine this refuge without our volunteers, our Friends group, refuge staff, our Friends grant-funded staff, and our community. Without them, we would not have made yesterday’s vision today’s reality.  I am proud, overwhelmed, humbled, and in awe of everyone who makes it all happen.

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