A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the great granddaughter of Governor Oswald West. She recalled the story of how Governor West, back in 1913, understood the uniqueness of Oregon’s coastal lands, and had the foresight to protect them. He championed Senate Bill 22, declaring that Oregon’s coasts are a “public highway and shall forever remain open to the public.” The legislation passed with unanimous support.
Across our country, there are states that can boast majestic mountains and stunning canyons, or desert experiences and crystal clear lakes. Even a few states lay claim to stunning coastlines, but to have these incredible places all in one state, as we do here in Oregon, is a gift.
But what makes Oregon truly unparalleled is our willingness to share and protect our lands. We do this through both public ownership, and through the generosity of the private land owners who participate in Oregon land trusts to help protect our rivers, farms, forests, wetlands, and wild habitats.
I gained my appreciation of the outdoors growing up in Colorado, but the Pacific Northwest always held a special allure — and after studying natural resources in college, I followed the trail of many before me and headed west. I have always valued what nature provided for my physical, mental, and spiritual health.
As the spouse of a governor, and retired from a 30-year career working in the outdoors, I have a unique opportunity to give back. Three years ago, I collaborated with various partners to start an initiative called Roadmap to the Outdoors. Our goal is to make the outdoors a welcoming place for ALL Oregonians. The work is focused on Oregon’s youth and underrepresented communities, but the message applies to every Oregonian: the outdoors and nature provide a wealth of benefits, and everyone should have the same opportunity to enjoy its beauty.
In 2017, my spouse, Governor Kate Brown, signed into law House Bill 2143, declaring the first Saturday in June each year as Outdoor Recreation Day. This year on June 1st, I will join the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts to celebrate. We will be at McKenzie River Trust’s all day event on their Green Island preserve outside of Eugene.
I invite you to join me! Celebrate our outdoors by participating in your favorite activity and use our hashtag #getoutdoorsOR (with bonus points if you invite others to join, who may not have experienced the outdoors or always felt welcome)
Oregonians share a special connection to the outdoors. It’s core to who we are, and any opportunity we can get outside and share it with one another, is an opportunity to celebrate.
This opinion piece originally appeared in The Register-Guard